The BreastCheck Programme provides free mammograms to all women aged 50-64. The Programme for Government includes the extension of BreastCheck to women in the 65-69 age group, in keeping with EU Guidelines on effective screening for breast cancer. The main priority for the HSE's National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) at present is to maximise national uptake in the 50-64 year age cohort and it aims to extend the upper age range from 65 - 69 in 2014 in keeping with the Programme for Government. In the meantime women of any age who have concerns about breast cancer should seek the advice of their GP who will, if appropriate, refer them to the symptomatic breast services in one of the eight designated specialist cancer centres.
In addition, an Efficiency Review of the BreastCheck Screening Programme in order to prepare for the age extension of BreastCheck to women up to the age of 69, was published recently. The review, which was commissioned by my Department, makes a number of recommendations on how the screening process could be enhanced to increase the number screened. The NCSS has set up an internal working group to begin the planning and costing process for the extension of the age range. The group is reviewing all aspects including population growth, impact of higher rate of breast cancers in the older age range, resource requirements and implementation options. My Department will continue to work with the HSE to ensure that national priorities and Programme for Government commitments are met.