BreastCheck marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month by urging women to take up their free breast screening invitation when offered

HSE Press Release:

Saturday 1 October 2022

Today, (Saturday, 1 October 2022) marking the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, BreastCheck – the National Breast Screening Programme is encouraging women to take up their screening invitation when offered.

BreastCheck, part of the National Screening Service, offers breast cancer screening to women aged from 50-69 every two years. Every year approximately 3,500 (or 1 in 7) women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Ireland, making it the most common invasive cancer among women. Of these, BreastCheck will detect approximately 1,200 women (33%) with breast cancer per year.

A National Cancer Registry Ireland (NCRI) trends report released in September highlighted the positive effect BreastCheck is having on breast cancer incidence and mortality in Ireland – reducing the impact of this potentially devastating disease on women and their families.

Screening looks for abnormalities that could be cancer in women who have no symptoms - when cancer is still small. This means cancer is often diagnosed at a lower or earlier stage and it can be more easily treated or cured.

The NCRI report, published on 22 September, titled Breast, cervical and colorectal cancer 1994-2019: National trends for cancers with population-based screening programmes in Ireland, showed the proportion of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancers (stage 1 and stage 2) is higher in women in the screened age group (93%), compared to the non-screened age groups of under 50 (78%), and over 70 years (75%). Breast cancer mortality rates among women also show a significant decreasing trend (by on average 1.8% per annum).*

Yet, while uptake of breast screening appointments among older women in the screening age range is strong, women in the younger age ranges - including those due their first screen - are a little less likely to attend for screening. Research we carried out in 2021 found some women who don’t attend were fearful that the screening test – a mammogram – would hurt or of what screening may find.** Other people in the survey said that they didn’t see a need to attend for screening because they didn’t have symptoms. Our work on equity is focused on identifying all barriers to screening and reducing them, so we can increase awareness of the benefits of screening and increase uptake. Women who might require extra time or supports for their screening mammogram can contact us to outline their needs, or visit hse.ie for more detailed information.**

BreastCheck Programme Manager Suzanne Lynch said: “BreastCheck is an important programme that can help improve the outcomes for women by detecting breast cancer before women have symptoms. We offer all women aged between 50 and 69 a chance to take positive action for their own breast health.

“We would encourage all those aged between 50 and 69 to come when invited, a mammogram takes less than an hour and for most women will happen in a location close to where they live. For someone who has never had a screening test we’d ask them to take a few minutes to check they’re on our register at breastcheck.ie or give us a call. If you’ve been invited and missed your appointment, please get in touch to discuss getting another.”

National Screening Service Chief Executive Fiona Murphy said: “I’m delighted to see the positive impact of BreastCheck detailed in the NCRI trends report. I hope these figures reassure women that breast cancer screening is effective and playing its part in reducing the toll of this disease by finding more cancers at an earlier stage and reducing year-on-year the number of women dying of breast cancer.”

BreastCheck Clinical Lead Fidelma Flanagan said: “Screening has been impacted by Covid-19, so as we get back to normal it is so important that we continue to make sure we fill all our appointment slots and screen as many women as possible each day. Women will receive a text message reminding them of their appointment, and if they can’t attend, we’re asking them to let us know as soon as possible. We are so thankful for the support of all our BreastCheck women who are letting us know if they can’t attend, enabling us to offer that screening slot to another woman in their community.”

Many factors increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. Some risk factors we can’t change, such as our age and our genes. Other risk factors we can change, include drinking alcohol, the types of food we eat, and how physically active we are. But we can all take steps to reduce our chance of serious illness by making healthy lifestyle choices, coming for screening when invited, and knowing the symptoms that need to be assessed by a GP.

Symptom awareness

It’s important for all women to check for lumps or physical changes in the shape, skin or size of their breasts. Women can self-check their own breasts using this guide on hse.ie and contact their GP if they notice any changes. This is because cancer can occur at any time, including between your screening appointments.

If you haven’t had your first BreastCheck screen you can check you are on our register at BreastCheck.ie, Freephone: 1800 45 45 55 (open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or email us at info@breastcheck.ie

Last updated on: 03 / 10 / 2022