Kenny insists priority screening available for women at risk of cancer
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has insisted there is priority screening for women at risk of certain hereditary cancers.
Following movie star Angelina Jolie's admission that she had a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer, Mr Kenny was challenged on reports of an 18-month waiting list for special DNA testing.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said it was unacceptable that women had to wait so long for the genetic testing, which determines whether they possess a defective gene that increases risk of the illness.
The Taoiseach insisted Ireland's screening process was "one of the most effective of its kind" but he would not be drawn on the DNA testing, which is offered to women whose relatives have contracted the disease.
"Women at high risk tend to have far more aggressive tumours, so early detection is absolutely critical," Mr Kenny said.
The Taoiseach said where there was a real concern that an individual might be more likely to have breast cancer, she would be fast-tracked for screening.
Mr Kenny said that the Health Service Executive's National Cancer Control Programme had established a working group to improve access to gene testing for women who might have a hereditary risk.
"Where there is a risk here and a probability that they may well be in this category, I assume that the working group would assess all of those figures and realities," he said.
"At the moment, if a GP has somebody about whom they have a genuine concern that they may be in danger of being caught by this type of cancer, then they can be referred for priority screening."
He described the breast screening programme that operates in Ireland as one of the most effective of its kind.
Tomb Raider star Jolie, 37, wrote in the New York Times yesterday that she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy after learning that she carries the "faulty" gene BRCA1, which sharply increases her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
"My doctors estimated that I had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman," she wrote in the article.
The actress and humanitarian campaigner said she was writing about her ordeal in the hope that other women might benefit from her experience.
In the article entitled My Medical Choice, she said she finished the three months of medical procedures on April 27 and added: "During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work."
The star's mother Marcheline Bertrand died in 2007 from ovarian cancer, aged 56.
Mr Kenny said he had read Jolie's statement with interest.
"She made her decision based on the risk of death, as her mother had died of the same ailment," he said.
"This is of particular interest to a cohort of women in this country and around the world."