19/03/2009

Older Women To Get Breast Scans

Women up to the age of 70 will be invited for breast screening under new plans just announced by NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.

Up to now only women aged between 50 and 64 have been routinely invited to attend screening.

Currently approximately 150,000 women are invited for screening. It is anticipated the extension to the programme will enable a further 45,000 women to be invited for such screening across Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative in the newly refurbished breast screening unit at Linenhall Street in Belfast, the Minister said: "Each year around 1,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Northern Ireland and approximately 300 women will die.

"The Northern Ireland Breast Screening Programme detects annually approximately 300 women with this disease.

"The extension of the screening age up to 70 will save lives, and I would encourage everyone invited for an appointment to attend. It could be the difference between life and death.
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"The earlier that breast cancer can be identified, the better chance of a successful treatment and increased survival. There is a 97% survival rate at five years for those women who have been detected to have breast cancer under the screening programme," he said.

The Sinn Féin MLA and Deputy Chair of the Stormont Health Committee Michelle O'Neill, has welcomed the announcement, but stressed that there should be blanket screening from the age of 50 onwards.

"This is very welcome news. The extension of breast screening to include women up to the age of 70, and not just to 64 years-of-age as was previously the case, will undoubtedly help save lives.

"However the question remains, why stop the screening programme at 70 years of age?

"As the risk of breast increases for women above the age of 50, with the NHS stating that 80% of cases occur in post-menopausal women, it is evident that the risk of developing breast cancer continues to rise as women get older.

"As breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer we need to see blanket screening from the age of 50 onwards," she said today.

(BMcC/JM)

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