Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (78)

Denis Naughten


193 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the action he is taking to address the prevalence, detection and treatment of prostate cancer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1385/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As I have previously informed the Deputy, the most recent report of the National Cancer Registry, Cancer in Ireland, 1994 to 1998: Incidence, Mortality, Treatment and Survival, finds that rates of prostate cancer in men in all age groups showed statistically significant increases. However, mortality rates showed no evidence of an upward or downward time trend. The report states that the evidence of a divergence between incidence and mortality rates may be due to better case-finding, more incidental diagnoses or a genuine increase in survival. The report further states that the increase in incidence rates in men under 65 years of age appears to be a recent phenomenon and that it is notable how little mortality rates have changed over this same period of time. The report concludes that it is unclear from the figures if mortality trends will change much in the future but considers that it is unlikely that incidence rates will continue their steady climb.

In recognition of the need to further develop cancer services, the national health strategy identified the need for the preparation of a new national cancer strategy. The National Cancer Strategy 2004 is currently being developed by the National Cancer Forum in conjunction with my Department. As part of this work, a sub-group of the National Cancer Forum has been established on generic screening. This multidisciplinary group has reviewed all issues relating to screening, including examining specific diseases such as prostate and colorectal cancer. On screening for prostate cancer in particular, the group recommended that there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend the introduction of a population-based prostate screening programme in this country. The group recommended that this issue should be reassessed when the results are available from randomised trials currently being conducted. The group's recommendations will inform the development of the new national cancer strategy.

I wish to advise the Deputy of European Commission recommendations on cancer screening which were accepted by the Council last December. The proposals do not provide for specific recommendations in respect of screening for prostate cancer.

The new national cancer strategy will build on the progress that has been made during the implementation of the first national cancer strategy and set out the key investment areas to be targeted for the development of cancer services over the coming years. It will also make recommendations on the organisation and structure of cancer services nationally.