Waterford city’s wait for the provision of the BreastCheck service continues. The national breast cancer screening programme, which is available for women between the ages of 50 and 64, was extended to women in the East Cork area on Friday, June 30th.
Eligible women across the Blackwater are currently being invited to attend BreastCheck’s Southern Unit in Cork for the mammogram they will receive in the coming months.
While no-one begrudges the extension of the service to women in Youghal, Killeagh and Midleton, the latest announcement has served to underling the absence of BreastCheck in the city.
Waterford City Councillor Seamus Ryan, who is also a member of the Regional Health Forum, criticised the ongoing delay in the provision of the service to women in the city.
“The failure to make BreastCheck available to women in Waterford city has caused anger and concern amongst campaigners and women in the city,” in Cllr Ryan’s view.
“I have been campaigning on this particular issue for six years and I am calling on Minister Mary Harney to intervene immediately and ensure that women in Waterford city are no longer denied this service.”
He added: “It is not acceptable that the availability of services such as BreastCheck is determined by where you live. This very successful breast cancer screening programme for women must be made available to women in Waterford city immediately.”
From now until Autumn, BreastCheck is screening women in Counties Tipperary (South Riding – in Clonmel) Kerry, Cork, Galway, Mayo, Meath, Dublin, Limerick, Louth, Sligo, Longford and Carlow.
Free mammograms, made available via BreastCheck’s mobile digital screening unit have been provided to women in County Waterford since July of last year.
“On completion of screening of women in this area, screening of women in Waterford City and surrounding areas will commence,” read a statement issued by the National Cancer Screening Service last October.
Speaking at the time, the service’s Chairman Tony O’Brien said that the scheme is “not designed to screen all areas at the same time”.
He added: “Public protests or demonstrations do not dictate or have any impact on the screening sequence.
“BreastCheck remains committed to the delivery of the service to all women aged 50 to 65 and women in Waterford should be aware that there is a very clear schedule for the provision of BreastCheck to the rest of County Waterford.”
Cllr Mary Roche echoed Cllr Ryan’s sentiments, stating: “I am calling now on the Minister for Health, not only to deliver BreastCheck to Waterford but to initiate an investigation into why the service can have been promised so many times only for those promises – including her own – to be broken.
“This is not an acceptable position for the women of Waterford to be in and needs immediate and urgent attention.”
Writing on her blog, Cllr Roche outlined her concerns about the absence of routine cancer screening for women in the city, which had previously available at Waterford Regional Hospital.
“That means that women whose mothers or sisters may have had breast cancer, thereby increasing the likelihood that they may get the disease, can not avail of screening,” she stated.
“A woman now has to present with an actual or suspected lump in order to receive a test. This is surely a retrogressive step and one which endangers the lives of many or our sisters, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, wives, partners, aunts, cousins and friends.
“Instead now of perhaps preventing or detecting breast cancer very early on, women must actually have discovered a lump in order to receive a mammogram.
“This situation simply has to end and in advance of the delivery of BreastCheck (and God knows at this stage when that will come) a programme must be made available at the very least, for women at high risk, whereby they can be screened regularly.”