However, survival rates for women with metastatic breast cancer have increased from 19pc to 32pc, new figures show
Detections of breast cancer among urgent-referral patients has increased 10pc since before the pandemic.
This is the second year in succession that new cases have increased among women referred to HSE rapid-access clinics.
Overall, there has been a 10pc increase in new cases of breast cancer to the end of 2022 compared to 2019.
In 2019, there were 1,946 breast cancers detected in wo men who were urgent referrals at rapid-access clinics. This number increased to 2,140 in 2021, up 194 or 10pc on 2019.
Last year, 2,109 women were diagnosed with the cancer after attending the clinics – up 163 or 8pc compared to pre-pandemic 2019 – a spokeswoman for the HSE confirmed.
“The total number of primary breast cancers detected in patients through this pathway has increased 10pc on 2019 counts, in line with the increased number of patients attending in 2021 and 2022,” she said.
Professor Risteárd Ó Laoide, who heads the National Cancer Control Programme, said this week that the initial indications were that these breast cancers were predominantly early stage. However, it would need to be confirmed through more research data.
Some specialists treating a range of cancers are reporting seeing more patients presenting with later-stage cancers, but it will be the end of the year before there is a clearer picture of the extent of this, he added.
He said work was in process, with various bodies looking at breast cancer, lung cancer and melanoma, and the impact on the stage of diagnosis during the pandemic.
Beaumont Hospital specialist Prof Arnold Hill said that urgent-referral breast cancer patients were seen during the early part of the pandemic, although there was a temporary reduction in March, April and May of 2020.
The BreastCheck programme had to be temporarily paused and that “definitely led to a delay in the pick-up of early breast cancers”, he said.
He said the service was still catching up.
Meanwhile, survival rates for women with metastatic breast cancer – the most severe form of the disease, where it has spread to other parts of the body – have increased from 19pc to 32pc, new figures show.
The trend, announced on World Cancer Day today, shows that although rates of recovery from metastatic breast cancer are lower than for other forms of cancer, the number of women living in Ireland with the disease is steadily growing.
Clinical trials are continually in development, creating new and improved treatments and therapies.
There are around 950 women in Ireland living with distant metastatic disease or metastatic breast cancer. This is the most challenging area from the perspective of treatment and scientific research.
The Breast Cancer Ireland charity has launched #MetastaticMatters, a campaign focusing on those living with a metastatic diagnosis.
The campaign aims to highlight the symptoms of metastatic disease to be aware of, and also to increase understanding of how and why this occurs.
Meanwhile, a new Ipsos poll, commissioned by MSD Ireland, found that just 48pc of people said they trusted the Irish healthcare system to provide the newest and best medicines and treatments to cancer patients in Ireland.
There is a perception of inequality for many, with 57pc believing that income and education levels are factors in the rates of cancer.
When looking at risk factors for cancer, four in five spontaneously recognise smoking (79pc) as a risk factor for cancer, with diet (50pc) and alcohol (45pc) also cited by many.