Dáil Éireann - Volume 437 - 16 December, 1993

Written Answers. - Cancer Screening.

43. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the alarming incidence of prostate cancer among the male population; his views on a national screening programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin): At present it is not possible to say with certainty what the incidence of prostate cancer is in Ireland each year. This information will be available from 1994 from the new national cancer register. The main objective of systematic screening is the prevention or the early diagnosis of certain conditions with a view to curing or stabilising the condition. In general, screening programmes involve the carrying out of specific diagnostic procedures on apparently well individuals, on a mass population basis, to detect those with previously undiagnosed disease.

Studies which have been carried out abroad suggest that a national screening programme for prostate cancer may result in the unnecessary treatment of a large number of men. The medical advice [1057] available to me is that at present the sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive values of the three diagnostic tests used to detect prostate cancer are too low to justify their use in a national screening programme.