Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher has warned that lives are being lost because of the Government’s failure to extend the highly successful Breastcheck programme to women aged 65-69.  The 2011 Programme for Government committed to an extension of the service in 2014, but the Health Minister has failed to allocate the necessary funding to secure the roll out.

Deputy Kelleher commented, “Breastcheck is an essential programme in the battle against cancer.  For every 500 women who are screened, one life will be saved.  The service has been extremely successful since it was introduced here and has proved to be a vital tool in cancer detection.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Ireland, with over 2,700 women between the ages of 50-64 diagnosed every year.  However, women aged between 65-69 have a 1 in 10 chance of getting breast cancer but are not being screened.

“Fianna Fáil has been highly critical of the Health Minister’s lack of action on this issue.  It gave a commitment in its 2011 Programme for Government to extend the programme to this core group of women, in full knowledge of the financial situation the country was facing.  The roll out was due to begin this year, but was dropped from the HSE’s 2014 Service Plan.  Over 40,000 women who had been promised mammograms under the screening programme are now losing out, and as many as 80 lives could be lost every year as a result. 

“These women will be forced to wait at least another year before they will be granted access to this life saving programme, and even then, it is dependent on it being included in the 2015 health budget.  Many women who were in this age bracket when the promise on the extension was made will never be entitled to a free mammogram under the Breastcheck programme.  This is an appaling indictment of the Government’s priorities.

“I will be supporting the Irish Cancer Society’s petition demanding the extension of this life saving programme in 2015 and will continue to put pressure on the Health Minister to ensure that these demands are met.”