MINISTER for Health James Reilly has committed to introducing breast cancer screening for women beyond the age of 65 - and within the lifetime of this government.
He was responding to Limerick Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell, who has been reminding government of its promise to extend BreastCheck to women in the 65 to 69-year-old bracket.
The screening programme currently provides free mammograms every two years to women aged between 50 and 64. But Deputy O’Donnell says women remain at a high risk of cancer beyond this age.
“Women in the 60-69 year age bracket have the second highest incidence of breast cancer and the second highest risk of dying from it. Yet the older half of this age group is currently ineligible for screening under BreastCheck,” Deputy O’Donnell stated.
He had met with Minister Reilly on the matter last week and took the issue up again in the Dail.
“A plan to roll out the free breast cancer screening scheme to women aged between 65 and 69 should be included in the HSE national service plan for 2015, which will be published in the autumn. We must ensure these women can have continued care after they reach 65,” Deputy O’Donnell stated.
For every 500 women screened by BreastCheck, one life had been saved and women aged between 65 and 69, who had a breast cancer incidence of one in 10, should have the benefit of early detection.
Minister Reilly replied that it was his intention to bring women in that age cohort under the ambit of BreastCheck “as soon as possible in line with available resources”.
Pressed further by Deputy O’Donnell on whether would happen within the lifetime of the current government, Minister Reilly replied that the promise stood.
“It is a Government commitment, one that I am very pleased to commit to as soon as possible and certainly within the lifetime of the Government,” he said.