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08 Dec 2021

Concern over Breast Check services in Tipperary

Concern is mounting over Breast Check services in the Premier County.

The regular provision of Breast Check vans   in  the county was raised in the Seanad and a Clonmel-based artist - who fought a breast cancer battle during Covid  - has also hit out over the issue. 

Senator Garret Ahearn  first highlighted the matter in the Seanad and said: “Breast Check saves lives. 

“It is very important to have this service a relatively close distance from where people live. 

“You cannot leave an entire region the size of Tipperary out. 

“This issue affects every single family in the county,” said  Senator Ahearn.

 He said the matter was a subject that was close to his heart as his mother, the late former Dáil deputy Theresa Ahearn, passed away at the age of 49 from breast cancer.

 “The longer we leave these services lapse, the more advanced cancer will spread. Early intervention is key,” he said.

Marine Kearney, a Clonmel artist whose first exhibition has just opened in Cork, had her own battle with breast cancer during Covid.

‘EVERY COUNTY’

“I always represented myself as young and never thought that I would be dealing with this, however cancer can touch anybody and it is critical to encourage people to be aware of it and get checked if they feel something is not right at any time as early detection is key,” said Marine.

“There should be a Breast Check van in every county. Tipperary is a huge county. Early access is everything. It is very disappointing that there is no Breast Check van in the whole county of  Tipperary,” she said.

STATEMENT 

In a statement the HSE said that the Breast Check  mobile vans are moved around the country on rotation as screening in each location falls due.

“The impact of Covid-19 means appointments in our current screening round (where we normally invite women for screening once every two years) are delayed by up to a year,” said the HSE.

The HSE said the last round of breast screening  in Clonmel took place between July 2019 and  July 28, 2021. 

“This means we have completed our current screening round in Tipperary and are not yet due to return,” said the HSE.

Fine Gael Senator Garret Ahearn has called on the HSE to reinstate Tipperary as a location of their breast cancer screening services.

Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Ahearn said: “The HSE has published a new list of locations around the country served by Breast Check vans. The service provided by the vans stopped during Covid for the last 18 months.  However, the new list which was published recently has no location in Tipperary.”

Senator Ahearn said The Irish Cancer Society has stated that a higher number of late-stage cancers are being diagnosed as a result of the screening delays caused by Covid-19. 

“The longer we leave these services lapse, the more advanced cancer will spread. Early intervention is key. The HSE says the cyber attack has had a huge impact on cancer screening services, which is understandable, but patients in Tipperary should have been contacted months ago to attend screening services,” he said.

“Women aged between 50 and 69 years are offered a mammogram every two years so women who were due their assessment when the pandemic began are waiting almost four years at this stage. The number of mammograms carried out by the HSE Breast Check services fell by more than two thirds in 2020, leading to a detection of 600 fewer breast cancers.  Some 56,000 women had a full mammogram last year compared with 170,000 in 2019,” said Senator Ahearn. 

“Tipperary has two Covid vaccination centres, one in Clonmel and one in Nenagh. There used to be a Breast Check van in Nenagh, but I would ask that the service also be offered in Clonmel,” he said.

Breast cancer survivor, Clonmel-based artist Marine Kearney, backed the call for a Breast Check van to be located in Tipperary.

Marine said  that for peace of mind and the quickest possible action it was important that a Breast Check van was located in Tipperary.

“Early access is everything,” said Marine, whose first exhibition of her paintings entitled Banfeinni has just opened in Cork city.

“The decision to go and get checked out should be an easy one. The service has to be close by. Clonmel has an excellent oncology service in the hospital and it would make sense to have a Breast Check van located in Clonmel,” she said.

This week Marine issued a plea to other women with breast cancer in the locality to consider joining the Suir Dragon Paddlers. She joined the group which is geared to provide appropriate exercise and a social outlet for cancer survivors. 

The group  is now in need of members as it needs a certain number of people to get into the boat at any one time and Marine is hopeful people will join. “Being among these incredible women boosts my morale and helps me physically as after all the treatment you need to move even if it’s very hard to do so. We are trained by Tino Castineira who is a consultant at Clonmel hospital,” she said.

“If you are also a cancer survivor please consider joining the dragon boat crew on the  Saturday afternoon or Sunday  at the Clonmel Rowing Club even just to have a chat, you will not regret it. It is fun and you are with people who understand you as we usually share the same path. It is actually proven that repetitive upper body exercise helps the side effects of cancer treatment to disappear.  So if you are a breast cancer survivor, a family member or just interested to join please contact Suir Dragon Paddlers  on 0873628383,” said Marine.

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