Expansion of cancer screening programmes to more age groups moves closer

Advisory committee also examines EU proposals for screening of lung, prostate cancer

A major expansion of cancer screening is on the cards as Ireland moves closer to implementing new EU proposals to widen the age groups eligible for existing programmes.

The European Commission is proposing that breast cancer screening be offered to women aged between 45 and 74 years. At present, Breastcheck screens only those women aged between 50 and 69.

The Commission is also recommending the extension of colorectal cancer screening to people aged between 50 and 74. At present, BowelScreen is available only to those aged between 60 and 69.

The National Screening Advisory Committee, which advised the Government on changes to screening programmes, said this week it will prioritise consideration of the Commission’s proposals in 2023 once they are formally published by the European Council in the coming weeks.

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It will also consider EU proposals to screen smokers for lung cancer and men under 70 for prostate cancer.

The committee on Tuesday made its annual call, inviting submissions on screening programmes. It published a work programme based on the 53 submission received in last year’s annual call.

Committee chairman Prof Niall O’Higgins said it has begun looking at the evidence for extending the age range for breast and bowel screening, as well as introduction of a new population-based screening programme for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) in men aged 65 years.

The committee is seeking four new members with expertise in the fields of cancer, communications/journalism, diagnostic imaging and medico-legal.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times