Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Three Things That Bother Me About Breastcheck

There are three serious problems with Breastcheck that are bothering me at the moment. All are big issues and all need to be looked at with a fresh perspective.

The first, and most obvious, is simply that Breastcheck is still not available in Waterford. I remember when ex-Councillor Mary O'Halloran was our citys' first Lady Mayor she had a face to face meeting with the Minister for Health (at the Ministers own request) and was promised that Breaskcheck would be delivered that year. That was a long time ago. Needless to say the date came and went and still no Breastcheck. It was not the first or last promise broken in relation to the date for delivery of Breastcheck to the women of Waterford.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend Mary who during her entire term as a Councillor, along with other Council members, worked hard on and brought focus to this particular issue. It is a pity that she gained no electoral advantage herself for that work but at any rate I know that was not her motivation. I also know that as a private citizen she will do all she can to continue to support and assist in the delivery of the Breastcheck service to Waterford.

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.

The second thing that bothers me about Breastcheck, is that in advance of its delivery to Waterford, routine screening of women - especially those at high risk of breast cancer - is no longer carried out in WRH. 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.

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.

The final thing that bothers me about Breastcheck is that, even if it were delivered in the morning, it would not be available to my mother. My mother is a healthy, vibrant 67 year old woman. Breastcheck is not available to women after the age of 64. This is a disgrace. It is discriminatory, ageist, sexist and in my opinion it should be illegal.

Only today I heard a call on the News at One for a Colo-rectal Cancer screening programme to be introduced for those up to 75 years of age. This is of course an excellent suggestion. Yet a cancer that affects almost exclusively, women, can only be screened up to 64 years of age. How can this be? Are women over 65 years somehow less valuable to society or less worth investing in than those under 64?

I am calling - no demanding - for this upper age limit for Breastcheck screening to be raised substantially. We, as a nation should not accept the notion that women over 64 are somehow less valuable than younger women. The average lifespan for a woman in Ireland today is well over eighty years long. It is not equal treatment for women in the last 20 years of their lives to be simply left without a screening programme.

Our over 70's displayed their unity of purpose and strength when it came to the medical card issue. Well here in another issue that also affects them directly and also needs fighting. It is a direct discrimination of women aged 65 and over, nothing more and nothing less. I hope that this fight will be taken up by the media and championed by the very same groups who sought and received concessions on the medical card issue.

Why should they accept this lesser treatment on the basis of age? The answer is: they should not.

No comments: