Breast cancer rate higher for Irish women

More Irish women of working age are being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to other European countries.

A report from the Economist Intelligence Unit has found, that in Ireland, 66% of women are diagnosed before the age of 65 compared to 55% across the EU.

Women aged 40 to 60, the years where breast cancer risk and employment most overlap, are a growing part of the workforce. However, the report found return-to-work rates varied considerably across the 10 countries studied, including Ireland.

The report — The Road to a Better Normal: Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors in the EU workforce — states it is crucial the right supports were available for those wanting to return to work.

The evidence to show how successful Irish breast cancer survivors are in returning to work was limited, but the Economist Intelligence Unit believes they may do less well than those in other countries.

“As the number of people with a breast cancer diagnosis increases, the more important it is that the right supports are available for those who want to return to work,” the Pfizer-sponsored study states.

The reasons for not returning to work are varied but often include having to overcome the physical consequences of cancer treatment as well as a lack of employer of colleague support.

The report found that Finland, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands offer the most support with comprehensive rehabilitation and return to work systems.

The recently published national cancer strategy includes commitments to support people returning to work after a cancer diagnosis. It states that employers should endeavour to help the successful transition of cancer survivors back to work.

Meanwhile, the Irish Cancer Society has revealed that most enquiries to its Nurseline and Daffodil Centres around the country are about breast cancer. Emotional support, questions about treatment and symptom management and talking to family members were the primary concerns.

Cancer Nurseline manager Naomi Fitzgibbon said breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in Ireland after non-melanoma skin cancer and it affected men too.

“So it’s no surprise that we get so many enquiries from people who are either concerned about breast cancer, or who have been diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said.

Breast cancer survivor Michael Reynolds from Leitrim rang the cancer Nurseline during his cancer journey. He was diagnosed last year at the age of 30 and cannot imagine going through cancer without the support service.

“During treatment, the oncology team are there for you the whole time. What I found difficult was when treatment ended, that support drops off. If I had an ache or pain or was concerned about anything I would ring the Nurseline for advice and the nurses were very helpful,” he said.

More than 2,900 people in Ireland are diagnosed with breast cancer annually.

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