Free breast cancer screening for over 40's sought

One in nine women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime

Calls have been made for BreastCheck, the national screening programme for breast cancer, to be extended to women aged 40 and above.

BreastCheck currently offers all women between the ages of 50 and 69 a mammogram (an x-ray of the breast) free of charge every two years.

“October is a time when awareness of breast cancer is at its height so it is opportune to raise the call of a Tallaght based Fianna Fáil councillor who wants to see free mammograms provided for women from age 40,” said Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher.

There are currently in the region of 3,700 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and 34% of them fall into the age range of 50 to 69.

According to Breast Cancer Ireland, one in nine women will develop breast cancer in the course of their lifetime with 23% of them diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 50 years.

Cllr Teresa Costello, who was diagnosed with breast cancer herself at age 36 in 2013 believes lives could be saved if free mammograms are provided for women from age 40.

Supporting the call, Sen Gallager said: “Mammograms typically aren’t recommended for women under 40 as breast tissue is denser and so it’s more difficult to detect. The proposal for free mammograms to be provided for women in that age group makes sense and should be explored immediately.”

Senator Gallagher raised the issue in the Seanad where the Seanad Leader agreed to write to the Minister of Health on the matter.