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Breast cancer screening not back until October while backlog rises

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Those expecting a mammogram might have to wait until next month

Those expecting a mammogram might have to wait until next month

Those expecting a mammogram might have to wait until next month

BreastCheck, the national screening programme to detect breast cancer, may not return until some time next month, it emerged yesterday.

The screening programme has been paused since March 16 because of Covid-19.

The HSE said the pause in community testing was put in place to protect patients and staff by complying with social distancing guidelines.

In addition, the HSE temporarily redeployed staff and resources in the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"However, clinical staff have continued to work within the programme," an HSE spokesperson said.

Invitations

"BreastCheck has continued to support the symptomatic breast services in its host hospitals, providing care, diagnostics, treatment and surgery for patients who have been referred to the symptomatic service."

It is projected that BreastCheck will resume this month or next.

"Invitations will be first iss-ued to those who were due for screening during the paused period, beginning with those who have been waiting longest," the spokesperson said.

"Invitations for routine screening will be issued subsequently, on a phased basis.

"Due to Covid-19 restrictions, services will not be operating at full capacity.

"The resumption of screening services will be based on the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic."

The spokesperson said that as screening restarts, "we will ensure all parts of the system have sufficient capacity to process the volume of tests".

"We are taking safety measures to protect both patients and staff, such as social distancing and face coverings," they added.

"This will mean appointments will take longer and it may also take longer to get an appointment. We will continue to follow guidelines.

"The National Screening Service does not report daily, weekly or monthly uptakes for any screening programme.

"The numbers screened by BreastCheck from January to the end of June in 2019 was 85,731. From January to the end of June 2020, the number screened by BreastCheck was 38,153."

The HSE said BowelScreen restarted issuing invites for screening to eligible people on a phased basis on August 4.

"Completed kits are being processed and reported by our laboratory. All endoscopy units are scheduling BowelScreen colonoscopies," the spokesperson said.

"BowelScreen endoscopy units are currently managing people whose procedures were cancelled or delayed due to Covid-19. We are closely moni- toring colonoscopy capacity and will be scheduling new procedures as capacity allows.

"The National Screening Service continues to encourage all people who are between screening appointments, or waiting for rescheduled appointments, to be aware of, and act upon, any symptoms associated with the conditions for which they are being screened. We ask that those people contact their GP."

Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane has called for a rapid review of cancer care to deal with the backlog in screening and treatment services.

He was responding to figures provided to him by the National Screening Service that show fewer than 100,000 people were screened through the State's screening programmes in the first half of this year compared with 500,000 people screened in 2019.

Separately, figures show medical oncology services are operating at 70pc capacity, with cancer surgeons only able to treat about half the number of patients they usually can.

"The figures show that a massive screening catch-up programme is needed," said Mr Cullinane.