Cork and Galway must wait until 2007 for breast screening

BREAST screening facilities for Cork and Galway will not be ready until 2007 - seven years after the proposed nationwide programme was started in the east of the country, it emerged yesterday.

At the launch of its annual report, BreastCheck revealed more than 50,000 women were screened and 379 cancers detected in 2003. There was a 40% increase to more than 70,000 in those invited for screening, with 75% take-up.

This suggests women are overcoming their fear about coming forward, particularly those invited a second time, when there was a 90% take-up. The programme was boosted in September by the announcement that the Government is to allocate €20 million to BreastCheck.

Project teams are now in the Victoria Hospital in Cork and the University College Hospital in Galway. Project briefs for both developments are expected to be finalised next week and it is hoped that the facilities will be on the two sites in early 2007.

Since screening began in February 2000, 133,200 checks have been carried out and just over 1,000 cancers detected. Women aged between 50 and 64 are invited for screenings.

“The results provide an immediate and important indication that the programme is likely to have a significant impact in reducing mortality from breast cancer,” said BreastCheck director Tony O’Brien.

Free breast screening was first offered to women in the Eastern Regional Health Authority, North Eastern and Midland health board areas. The nationwide rollout began with the extension of screening for those living in Wexford and is to be extended to Carlow and Kilkenny next year.

The report revealed BreastCheck fell short of its target of offering hospital admission within three weeks in 90% of cases. This was achieved in 86.5% of cases.

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