Unregulated pregnancy scanners 'putting women at risk'
A former master of the Coombe Hospital has warned that woman who have gynaecological ultrasound screening are being put at risk in some centres.
Prof Sean Daly said the risk arises because of a failure to regulate medical scanning services in Ireland.
"The provision of medical scanning services in Ireland is unregulated, creating a situation where Irish women may be exploited and even harmed by inadvertently trusting a medical investigation carried out by a person who is unfit or untrained."
He added: "If a woman attends a hospital or clinic where a radiologist who is on the specialist register is present, then it can be assumed that the doctor has had formal training in gynaecology.
"If a radiographer performs the examination and has graduated from an Irish training system, then the radiographer will have had specific training in gynaecology. The radiologist will review the images and report the examination."
But he told the Oireachtas health committee that problems can arise if the radiographer or GP has not completed a specific training programme. Referring to fertility services, he said: "We are now seeing a huge rise in infertility services in Ireland and many providers are not Irish-trained.
"The examination to determine the response of the ovary to drug stimulation needs to be accurate in order to avoid mistiming the ovulation or resulting in multiple ovulations and, subsequently, multiple pregnancies."
He pointed out that in IVF, multiple pregnancy rates may be reduced by not allowing the transfer of multiple embryos.
"Again, it is a totally unregulated area, and anybody can set up a service and claim to be an expert," he warned.
Meanwhile, a leading specialist has warned that Irish women's alcohol consumption is contributing to their breast cancer risk.
Women in this country face a lifetime risk of between one in eight and one in 12 of developing breast cancer, said Dr Jerome Coffey, head of cancer services in the HSE.
"A proportion of that risk is due to alcohol intake," he told the committee.
He said the overall incidence of cancer would go up by 50pc between 2015 and 2025 and by about 100pc by 2040.
"The only way to reduce the number of new cases is through lifestyle changes," said Dr Coffey, who is also the new chair of the National Cancer Registry.
"Unless those efforts are re-doubled now, then we are going to see a lot more patients with the disease."
Better treatments may mean improved survival for those patients, "but you prefer not to be a patient, even if you survive", he added.
"Several things have to happen as a matter of urgency. About 40pc of cancers can be attributed to lifestyle factors, so we have to focus heavily on cancer prevention."