Sunday 17 December 2017

U-turn likely on controversial cutbacks for cancer survivors

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A u-turn looks inevitable on controversial cuts to post-operation supplies of supports for women who have battled breast cancer.

The HSE has been forced to revise its plans to cut the supply of supports in several areas of the country as part of the move to extend the service nationwide. Under the new scheme, women were to have been provided with an allowance of only €68.50 for one breast prosthesis every two years.

However, a prosthesis can cost between €110 and €200, suppliers warned.

Women who have survived breast cancer would also no longer be provided with surgical bras, other than those supplied when leaving the hospital.

The HSE defended the overhaul saying that the new scheme will give every woman the same service countrywide and end the problem of some health areas having limited or no supports.

However, the changes have now been put back until August and they are likely to be less drastic than originally planned.

Health Minister Simon Harris made a series of pointed remarks as the plans were revealed at the weekend, and admitted: "This was the first I heard of these changes."

He said: "When I became aware of the proposed changes, I intervened and their introduction is now deferred.

"I have asked the HSE to come back to me with an enhanced plan that doesn't adversely affect women who are already coping with cancer. I want to ensure that they are not subjected to additional stress and worry about losing services.

"It is essential that every woman in this country in receipt of post-operative and cancer treatment supports continues to receive them. I want to be very clear that there cannot be any cuts in this area."

Most breast cancer patients in Ireland still have surgical treatment - but there has been a strong trend towards partial rather than full mastectomy, according to a report.

The partial mastectomy, or lumpectomy, allows for only the part of the breast containing the cancer as well as some surrounding normal tissue to be removed.

Compared with full mastectomy, involving the removal of the breast, this less radical operation accounts for two-thirds of all surgical treatments for breast cancer, according to a report from the National Cancer Registry.

Many women who undergo removal of a lump and some surrounding tissue may also have a need for a partial prosthesis to give them a natural shape after surgery.

The National Cancer Registry shows that the chance of a woman developing malignant breast cancer before her 75th birthday is about one in 10.

It said breast cancer is the most common malignant tumour diagnosed in Irish women, with 2,883 cases diagnosed each year on average during 2011-2013.

More women are surviving the disease and the mortality rate has declined significantly by about 2pc per year.

Irish Independent

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