The head of the State Claims Agency confirmed the situation during a day-long meeting on the cervical cancer tests scandal.
Speaking at the latest meeting of the Dáil’s public accounts committee, State Claims Agency director Ciarán Breen said while the current scandal is focused on cervical cancer, he is aware of other unrelated cases.
Asked by Social Democrats TD, Catherine Murphy, if there are any cases in relation to BreastCheck and the State’s bowel cancer screening system, as both services are also due to be reviewed by the planned inquiry, Mr Breen said: “We have four cases arising from breast cancer screening.”
In a follow-up response to Sinn Féin TD, Jonathan O’Brien, Mr Breen said: “They’re in relation to misdiagnosis of cancer cases, what I can say is they allege misdiagnosis”.
During the same meeting, Mr O Brien asked senior Department of Health and HSE officials if, due to the cases, they were aware of any planned audits in relation to BreastCheck. The HSE’s national director of risk, quality and clinical care, Dr Philip Crowley, said: “I’m not aware” of any audits at this time, but emphasised that there are no cases pending in relation to the bowel cancer service.
The revelation that four women are taking cases against the State over claims that BreastCheck allegedly failed to diagnose their breast cancer is likely to lead to fresh fears over the standard of care in Ireland’s cancer services.
While no details of the four cases were provided, they come as the cervical cancer tests scandal deepens and as the Government on Tuesday established a two-month scoping exercise to decide if a full-scale commission of investigation is needed.
Health Minister Simon Harris has already said that in addition to CervicalCheck being reviewed, the Government also intends to review the standard of care at both BreastCheck and the national bowel cancer screening service. However, asked last week if he was including BreastCheck and the bowel cancer service due to any concerns about either service, Mr Harris was adamant it was simply a precautionary measure.
Despite the cervical cancer tests scandal, officials, medics, support groups and politicians have all urged that people should continue to go to screenings as this remains the best way of identifying the early stages of cancer.