Written Answers. - Cancer Screening Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

325 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that persons who responded to the breast cancer screening programme when it was first initiated, to be told that they could not yet be accommodated, are now being told that they are outside the eligible age group, and will have to be referred to a specialist if a case for breast screening is to be made; and if he will revise arrangements in order that all those who were within the eligible age category when they made the original request will be eligible for the necessary screening. [10963/03]

BreastCheck, the national breast screening programme, commenced in March 2000 with its first phase covering the ERHA, the Midland Health Board and the 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 140,000 women and represents about 50% of the national target population. By end December 2002, 110,636 women had been called for screening and 83,000 women had been screened. This represents an uptake of 75%.

Women eligible for the programme are those between the ages of 50 and 64 at the time when BreastCheck is screening in their area. The organisation has informed my Department that it has taken longer than expected to complete the first round of screening due to a national shortage of radiographers during the start-up period. It is now working to full capacity in the eastern area with a full complement of radiographers and round one is in the final stages of completion.

As BreastCheck did not reach all parts of the eastern area for a first round of screening by 2002, provision has been made so that women who have exceeded the age limit, during the period of the overrun, may contact the programme to avail of the service.

BreastCheck is committed to returning to each area, for a second round of screening, within 27 months. The second round of screening in the eastern area began in September 2002. If the period of returning to any area is longer than 27 months, and women exceed the age limit during the period of the overrun, the organisation will still invite these women for a further mammogram. This will ensure that no woman who is eligible for screening is excluded from the programme.