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Written Answers. - Eccles Breast Screening Programme.

Wednesday, 8 May 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 465 No. 1

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 70. Mr. D. Ahern Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern  asked the Minister for Health Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan  if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a breast screening programme for the detection of cancer, known as the Eccles Programme, which has been running in the northeast for the last number of years, has come to an end due to lack of funding; the plans if any, he has to resurrect this much needed service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9092/96]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Limerick East): The Eccles Breast Screening Programme was a population-based screening programme for breast cancer, based at the Mater Hospital, Dublin. The programme, which was a pilot programme, ran in north Dublin and in Cavan and Monaghan and had two main objectives; to evaluate the impact of breast screening on morbidity and mortality from breast cancer in Irish women and to address the feasibility and potential value of a national breast cancer screening programme.

The Eccles Programme commenced in 1989 and was thoroughly evaluated. This evaluation indicated that breast screening, for women in the 50 to 64 age [110] bracket, was effective in identifying breast cancer at an early stage, allowing for early treatment. The programme A Government of Renewal, contains a commitment to expand the Eccles Programme on a phased basis.

I announced, in October 1995, that a national breast screening programme would commence in 1996 and adequate resources have been allocated for this purpose. At present my Department is engaged in setting a framework for the first phase of the national programme, which will commence in the Eastern, North-Eastern and Midland Health Board areas. The decision to proceed on a phased basis is guided by the need for: the achievement of acceptable compliance levels among the target population; on-going evaluation of the programme from a quality assurance perspective; and availability of the necessary clinical expertise to conduct the programme.

The issues to be addressed before the programme can commence, include the establishment of a population register, which covers the maximum number of the target population, the organisational structures required and a guarantee of quality assurance.

The programme will commence before the end of the year.

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