Press Release

Minister Micheál Martin announces National Extension of BreastCheck

Micheál Martin T.D., Minister for Health and Children today announced the national extension of BreastCheck, the National Breast Screening Programme.

The BreastCheck clinical unit in the Western area will be at University College Hospital Galway, with two associated mobile units. The area of coverage is counties Galway, Sligo, Roscommon, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim, Clare and Tipperary N.R.

The BreastCheck clinical unit in the Southern area will be located at South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital, with three associated mobile units. Counties covered include Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary S.R.

Under the extension, approximately 130,000 women in the target population 50 to 64 years of age will be eligible for screening. The programme expects to diagnose approximately 400 cancers per annum among this population.

The Minister said “I have approved the establishment of two Capital Project Teams to develop a brief for the capital infrastructure needed for the static units in the South and West. This approval will allow for the immediate commencement of the detailed planning for the national roll-out, including linkages with the symptomatic services”.

Under the Business Plan submitted by BreastCheck to the Department, the national expansion of the programme will require investment of €27 million, including €13million capital costs.

BreastCheck commenced in March 2000, with phase one of the programme covering the Eastern Regional Health Authority, Midland Health Board and North Eastern Health Board areas. Screening is being offered free of charge to all women in those areas in the target age group 50 to 64 years of age. By end December 2002, 110,636 women had been called for screening and 83,000 women had been screened. This represents an uptake of 75%. Last month, the Minister announced the extension of BreastCheck to a further three counties, Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny.

The Minister said that this Government´s commitment to the further development of cancers services has been reflected in the increased level of investment provided. The cumulative additional investment in cancer services since 1997 is in excess of€400million, well in excess of the £25million initially envisaged in 1996 to implement the National Cancer Strategy.