Free breast screening for 65-69 group may save 87 lives

Cancer campaigners from every constituency in Ireland have signed a petition calling on the Government to honour its commitment to extend free breast screening to women aged 65 to 69 in 2014.

Free breast screening for 65-69 group may save 87  lives

The commitment is contained in the Government 2012 document Future Health, a three-year blueprint for health service reform.

However, even though the Irish Cancer Society claims that extending screening to this age group would save an additional 87 lives annually, the promised extension is off the cards for this year.

The ICS submitted its petition to government yesterday, supported by cancer campaigners from across the country.

Kathleen O’Meara, ICS head of advocacy and communications, said it was “common sense” to put money into a programme “that has such a measurable and life-saving impact”.

“We are asking the Minister for Health not to forget about the promises that have been made and to commit to funding the BreastCheck extension in the HSE’s Services Plan for 2015,” Ms O’Meara said. A spokesperson for Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he “really did want to extend it” but that “next year’s budget will have a bearing on how soon the remainder of government priorities in the area of health can be addressed”.

BreastCheck, the national breast cancer screening service, said it had submitted a business plan to the Department of Health outlining the additional resources required, and that it was included in the HSE estimates process for 2015.

Once the age range is increased, the total eligible population for BreastCheck will be over 544,000 women, a 41% increase in the number of women currently eligible.

Separately, the HSE confirmed it had agreed to fund a breast cancer drug, hailed at the weekend as showing “unprecedented benefits” in patients with a type of breast cancer known as HER2-positive.

The decision to fund the drug for public patients in public hospitals goes against a recommendation by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics that the HSE not fund Perjeta because it was not cost-effective. HSE chief pharmacist Patricia Heckman said yesterday the HSE had been funding the drug since February 1 and that it was “a good news story” for patients as clinical trials had shown it extended survival time by almost 16 months.

To sign the ICS petition or for more on its Paint it Pink campaign (Oct 3 fundraiser) log onto www.cancer.ie

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