[Sinn Fein]

5th December 2002

`BreastCheck must be extended to Southern region as a matter of urgency' - Ferris

Sinn Fein TD for North Kerry, Martin Ferris, has reiterated his call for the National Breast Screening Programme to be extended to the Southern Health Board area. Deputy Ferris was speaking after receiving a response from the Health Minister, Michael Martin, to a question he had raised in Leinster House in relation to the BreastCheck Programme being extended to the Southern Health Board area.

In response to Deputy Ferris question, Michael Martin stated that "he was committed to the national extension of BreastCheck and a decision in relation to this is being considered in the context of the overall investment for cancer services.

But Mr. Martin also pointed out that "any women irrespective of her age, who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Deputy Ferris said:

``This response is wholly in adequate and, only for the seriousness of the matter, almost laughable.

``When the first phase of the Breast Screening Programme began in March 2000, the women living in the Southern Health Board area were totally ignored. It is an absolute disgrace that, in this day and age, we have a situation where it is up to women to, first of all perform a check on themselves, and then go their GP and, if it necessary, go to a service where in some cases are totally under funded and under resourced and may have a waiting period.

``The most important point of all this is that a mammogram can detect symptoms of breast cancer before they become physical and early detection would decrease deaths from breast cancer by 20 percent.

``I am again calling on the Department for Health to extend the BreastCheck to the Southern Health Board area immediately.''

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