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This Government has failed women like me yet again

HOW CAN the Government defend failing to extend Breastcheck yet again?

Healthy babies and children will have free GP care while the lives of mammies and grannies are threatened by the under-resourcing of Breastcheck. Where is the sense in that?

There's no evidence that those babies and kiddies are suffering ill-health because some of them must go to the doctor. Most are in perfect health, and more would be too if our health services supported breast-feeding which also reduces the risk of breast cancer.

TESTED

BUT THOSE KIDS' PERFECT HEALTH WILL BE SORELY TESTED IF THEIR MAMMIES GET BREAST CANCER WHILE THEY'RE STILL YOUNG. IF DISASTER STRIKES AND MAM DIES, THOSE LIVES WILL BE RIPPED APART.

I know two mothers who found out they had breast cancer from a random Breastcheck mammogram at 50. One now has terminal cancer, the other faces the chance of a recurrence.

But me and my friends who turned 50 in 2013 haven't had a call yet from Breastcheck, which now says it hopes to screen every woman before she is 52.

This would have been too late for either of my older friends who discovered they had cancer. If they had found out at 52 they might both be dead now. Two families of children would be grieving an irreparable loss. Their fathers, friends and relations would be desperately struggling to fill the gap left by a mother.

Because these women's cancers were discovered when they were 50, they have had the chance to stick around to see their kids through Leaving Certificate and even into college. With luck, their kids will have flown the nest before Mammy bird has to take her last flight.

So what's going to happen to all those families of 50-something women who are not screened in time to start treatment to halt their breast cancer? What good is it going to do them that there's free GP care for children of five and under?

The American Cancer Society recommends regular mammograms for women over 40, but our National Cancer Control Strategy didn't find enough evidence to justify that.

I paid for two mammograms in my forties. When I saw two friends with cancers caught too late at 50 I decided I couldn't afford not to. Not with four kids, one of whom has special needs.

Opinions vary as to whether I was wasting my time and money. But the facts clearly indicate screening for women aged 65 to 69 who made up nearly a quarter of diagnoses in the UK between 2008 and 2010.

That's why our National Cancer Control Strategy recommended extending Breastcheck to include these women back in 2006 and the Coalition committed to doing it in the Programme for Government.

It's a promise that won't be kept this year, the HSE chief Tony O'Brien admitted last week. Those vital women, still at the heart of their families and their communities, competed for scarce resources and didn't make the cut.

What of it if their cancer is caught too late – haven't they raised their kids by now? Haven't they led full lives?

Alright, I know no-one in the Government wants women to get breast cancer. There is only so much money to go around, and so many worthy causes.

My problem is this: how can a Government look us in the face and say they're going to pay for GP care for children up to five who don't need it and then fail to deliver on the solemn promises they made to every woman who has breasts at the time of the election?


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