Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey has called on the Twenty-Six County government to act immediately to extend the BreastCheck programme across the state.
It was recently revealed that women from Donegal were having to organise bus trips to avail of breast cancer screening in Belfast, highlighting once again the refusal of the Twenty-Six County government to roll out the Breast Check screening programme to counties Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.
The BreastCheck programme commenced eight years ago. It is a free service, offering screening for breast cancer every two years in the areas covered by the programme to women in the target age bracket of 50-65. To date, the programme has been rolled out throughout the vast majority of the state, yet despite repeated promises, women in the north-west continue to be denied access to what is an extremely valuable and potentially life saving service.
As far back as March 2003, the former health minister Micheál Martin announced that BreastCheck would be in place and operating in the north-west by September 2005 at the very latest. In December 2006, minister Mary Harney stated that screening would begin by the spring of 2007. None of these promises have been upheld and there is currently no date set for the roll out of this service
Casey said: "The continued denial of this potentially life saving service to the women of counties Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal is scandalous.
"Every year, more than 600 women in the Twenty-Six Counties die from breast cancer, while more than 2,000 others are diagnosed with it. The reality is that in the vast majority of cases, the early detection of breast cancer makes the chances of a full recovery extremely likely, while also making the entire treatment and recovery process far less traumatic for the patient involved.
"According to the All-Ireland Cancer Statistics 1998-2000, between the years 1994 and 2000, mortality rates from breast cancer fell by more than 20 per cent in the Six Counties where screening programmes were well established, while, in the Twenty-Six County state where no screening programme had yet been established, mortality figures remained the same in 2000 as they were in 1994."
Gerry concluded: "By continuing to deny women in the north-west access to a proper screening service, which is available in most other counties, the Dublin government is playing with their lives. The simple fact is that women in these counties will die unnecessarily from breast cancer as a direct result of this administration's policy. There is no excuse for any further delay and the government needs to begin the immediate roll out of the BreastCheck programme to counties Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal."