Written Answers. - Cancer Screening Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

203 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the total number of women here who were diagnosed with breast cancer to date in 2002; the success to date of the BreastCheck programme; when the BreastCheck programme will be extended to the rest of the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22064/02]

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.

The decision to proceed on a phased basis is a reflection of the complexities involved in the screening process and it is essential that the programme is driven by international quality assurance criteria and best practice. The board of BreastCheck has recently submitted a business plan to my Department for the national expansion of the programme. My Department is currently discussing the business plan with BreastCheck and especially the linkages with the existing symptomatic breast disease services. I am committed to the national extension of BreastCheck and a decision in relation to this will be considered in the context of the overall investment programme for cancer services for 2003.
As the Deputy is aware, any woman irrespective of her age or residence, who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.
Question No. 204 answered with Question No. 200.