A NUMBER of cancer patients, ready to begin radiotherapy treatment for their disease, are suffering delays.
The patients should start the treatment within 15 working days of being deemed suitable by their radiation oncologist.
The HSE blamed a lack of radiotherapy capacity in Cork, but said this is being addressed in plans for expansion and enabling works have started.
The concerns emerged as Dr Susan O'Reilly, director of the National Cancer Control Programme, warned that Ireland is facing an "unprecedented" growth in cases of the disease as a result of the ageing population and lifestyle habits.
Dr O'Reilly, speaking at the launch of the Irish Cancer Society's Daffodil Day, its major fundraising event on March 22, said: "The Government needs to stop being afraid of losing money through cigarette smuggling. They should raise taxes."
One in two smokers will die from a smoking-related disease, she warned. However, survival rates are rising.
The Irish Cancer Society said 200,000 people with the disease contacted its information services last year and these have now been extended to some hospitals to improve access.
Meanwhile, Prof Roger Kirby, of The Prostate Centre in London told a meeting in Dublin that men's health is more than just "beer guts and baldness".
He told the audience of more than 450 surgeons at the Royal College of Surgeons that "most men tend to look after their cars better than their own health and live by the old adage 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'".
He warned that this is causing men to die younger than women. "Men have a higher rate of mortality from cancer than women; they tend to drink and smoke longer and should they try to commit suicide, they are more likely to succeed than women.
"Men are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, but hardly ever get screened for it, they get more sexually transmitted infections than women and they are more affected by stress.
"These facts show that being a man is a significant health risk. It is time to close the gender gap between men and women when it comes to looking after our health."
His recipe for a longer life is: "portion control, lose the booze, axe the snacks, cut the carbs and exercise daily."
Elsewhere, it emerged that almost 10,000 people who need to be seen at an outpatient clinic are waiting more than four years.
There are currently 384,446 people nationwide in the queue for an appointment and around 110,000 of these are on the list for more than a year.
The latest figures from the HSE also show that 29,654 people who had appointments in December failed to turn up.
However, the figures reveal success in bringing down the numbers on waiting lists for in-patient care such as surgery.
There were just 186 adults waiting more than nine months for a planned procedure at the end of December.