The most recent report of the National Cancer Registry, Cancer in Ireland: 1994 to 1998, Incidence, Mortality, Treatment and Survival, indicated that Ireland had the lowest incidence of breast cancer within Ireland and Britain, close to the average incidence for the European Union as a whole. The report also indicates that there is evidence of a divergence between female incidence and mortality rates, with a significant upward trend in breast cancer incidence in women under 65 years and downward trends in mortality rates in all age groups combined. These findings may be the result of improvements in treatment and-or increased screening. There were no significant trends in incidence or mortality for women aged 65 and over. The clear margin between the incidence and mortality trends reflect the fact that survival from breast cancer is good. The National Cancer Registry reports that this divergence in the trends is expected to continue as a result of continuing improvements in treatments and also as a result of BreastCheck, the national breast screening programme.
The national breast screening programme commenced in March 2000 with phase one of the programme covering the Eastern Regional Health Authority, Midland Health Board and North-Eastern health board areas. Screening is being offered free of charge to all women in those areas in the target age group 50 to 64 years of age. The target population consists of approximately 136,000 women and it represents about 50% of the national target population. To end August 2002, 91,906 women had been called for screening and 68,184 women have been screened, representing an uptake of 74%. To end June 2002, 544 cancers had been detected amongst the screened population.