Policies

Specialist Breast Centres

Europa Donna Ireland supports the concept of Specialist Breast Centres; international research has shown that diagnosis and treatment in specialised centres improve survival rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer by 25 to 30%. We support the current plan to develop 8 specialist centres. Europa Donna Ireland acknowledges the concerns of a number of local communities and calls for an urgent review of the common expenses and issues encountered by patients travelling for diagnosis and treatment. Download our leaflet on Specialist Breast Centres.

Screening

Europa Donna Ireland supports the work of BreastCheck, The National Breast Screening Programme, and welcomes the long delayed roll out of screening to the south and west of the country. We wish to see the age range extended to 70 as soon as possible.

BreastCheck procedures: BreastCheck is a free service and meets all the best international standards for a national screening programme. At the moment women aged 50-64 are invited by letter for a free breast x-ray every two years; if the time/date is not suitable you will have the option of changing it. The service operates area by area, so if you hear that women in your area are receiving invitations and you have not received one (and are in that age group), you should ring BreastCheck to make an appointment. The appointment will take approximately 30 minutes and the vast majority of women are perfectly healthy. If you are found to have a breast cancer the likelihood is that it is in the very early stages and will be treated very successfully.

The overwhelming majority of women diagnosed early will survive to lead normal healthy lives. This is why we encourage every woman to take up their BreastCheck invitation.

You should ring BreastCheck at 1800 454555 to make an appointment. You can check if you are on the register at www.nbsp.ie.

March 2010: The following factsheet on Age and Population Screening has been issued by BreastCheck:

Population-based Breast Cancer Screening

BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme provides free mammograms to women aged 50-64 on an area by area basis every two years.

Incidence of Breast Cancer

In Ireland over 70 per cent of breast cancers occur in women over 50 years of age. While the incidence of breast cancer in women aged 40-49 is increasing, the incidence is still approximately 50 per cent lower than that for the 50-59 age range.

BreastCheck invites women aged 50-64 for regular screening as the incidence of breast cancer is highest in this age group.

Screening Age Reduction

Despite lower mortality from breast cancer at younger ages, the effectiveness of screening below age 50 remains an issue of debate.

Several randomised controlled trials in screening have included younger age groups but have not confirmed significant reduction in mortality in the 40-49 age group.

In 1991, the NHS set up a large randomised controlled trial to measure the effectiveness of screening women from age 40. The trial is ongoing and interim results indicate that a reduction in breast cancer mortality is likely to be observed. However the size of the reduction is uncertain and awaits further follow-up.

In 2008 the Board of the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) commissioned an internal review to examine the evidence for reducing the lower screening age limit from 50 to 47 years. The review concluded that while a reduction in screening age might be of some benefit to some younger women, the merits of extending the programme age range downwards from a population-based screening perspective is still a matter of debate.

The review did not change the overall view that while the case for extending the age downwards is now stronger than it used to be, the case for extending the programme to older women was still stronger.

Screening Age Extension

The incidence and risk of breast cancer in women increases with age. Following the completion of first round screening nationally and subject to the provision of additional resources, the Board of the National Cancer Screening Service has approved extending the upper screening age limit to women aged 69 in accordance with the European Council’s recommendation. This decision has been taken in line with Government policy and the National Cancer Control Strategy (2006).

Mammography in Women Under 50 Years

Mammography has a role to play in the diagnosis of younger women who are symptomatic. These women should be referred to a specialist breast centre for assessment and management.

BreastCheck encourages all women, regardless of age or participation in screening to remain breast aware at all times and to contact their GP without delay if they have any concerns regarding breast cancer.