Dáil Éireann - Volume 486 - 29 January, 1998
Written Answers. - Prostate and Bowel Cancer.
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
 47. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make a statement on the incidence of prostate cancer in Ireland; if these incidents are increasing; the steps, if any, that can be taken to prevent the onset of this disease; the research, if any, on new therapies to deal with the disease; and the introduction of mass screening to identify the disease in its early stages. [2101/98]
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
49. Mr. Belton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will ensure that counselling is made available to all patients who are advised following tests in hospital that they have prostate cancer and that this counselling be provided at the time when such a diagnosis is given to a patient or immediately subsequent to a diagnosis; and if he will also ensure that all cancer patients are made aware of the existence of these counselling services. [2088/98]
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
127. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals, if any, he has to introduce screening for bowel and prostate cancer in view of the medical advances in screening techniques and the identification of groups at risk. [2099/98]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen) Brian Cowen
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 49 and 127 together.
The National Cancer Registry Board recorded a total of 1,061 new cases of prostate cancer in 1994 and 1,084 in 1995, the latest year for which complete information is available. It is difficult to estimate the true incidence (i.e. number of new cases) of prostate cancer because of the nature of the disease.
Many prostate cancers are not fatal and do not cause symptoms during the patient's lifetime. In these circumstances the cancer is only identified incidentally when the patient has surgery for benign prostatic disease. As the number of men having surgery for benign disease increases, so too will the detection of prostate cancer. This gives rise to an increase in the number of prostate cancers detected but does not necessarily mean that the true incidence of prostate cancer is increasing.
While there has been an upward trend in deaths from prostate cancer, this may be due to more comprehensive diagnosis and investigation, together with increased longevity among men in recent years.
The Health Research Board has funded research into prostate cancer, including therapeutic research, in recent years. Funding of £80,000 has been provided to the Health Research Board under the national cancer strategy for a separate programme of clinical research into all forms of cancer, with particular emphasis on multi-institutional and multi-discriplinary research. The Health Research Board is currently evaluating applications in this regard.
In relation to mass screening programmes for prostate cancer and bowel cancer, I am keeping  the medical evidence regarding their effectiveness under review. While advances are continually being made in the detection and treatment of these diseases, the expert advice available to me is that effective techniques have yet to be developed which would make the introduction of mass screening programmes possible.
The national cancer strategy stresses the importance of adequate advice and support for patients who have been diagnosed as having any form of cancer. While the term ‘counselling’ may have a number of different meanings, ranging from general advice to formal counselling sessions, the philosophy underlying the strategy is that patients and their families should have adequate and clear information about the nature of their disease, the treatments available for it and any other details that they wish to have explained. The services provided by hospitals to patients with cancer are currently the focus of attention by the regional directors of cancer services, who are drawing up cancer plans for their regions at present.
Dáil Éireann 486 Written Answers. Prostate and Bowel Cancer.