Durkan: New breast cancer test will spare hundreds from chemotherapy

SDLP  MP Mark Durkan.
SDLP MP Mark Durkan.

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has welcomed a letter from the Health and Social Care Board supporting the introduction of a new breast cancer test in Northern Ireland which could spare hundreds of women with breast cancer from having needless chemotherapy.

Mr Durkan, who is Vice–Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer, has been lobbying to ensure that patients in Derry and throughout the North have access to the pioneering new Oncotype DX test.

He said: “I am delighted that the Health and Social Care Board have written to inform me that from January 2016, Oncotype DX testing has been commissioned in Northern Ireland in line with the advice contained in NICE Guidance.

“Research suggests only around 10 per cent of patients with early-stage breast cancer actually benefit from chemotherapy.

“However, up until now, too many women have been treated in a blanket fashion and offered chemotherapy whatever their tumour is like.

“The Oncotype DX test importantly indicates how likely breast cancer recurrence is, and whether chemotherapy will actually benefit the patient.

“This pioneering test could therefore spare hundreds of women with breast cancer in Derry and throughout the North from having needless chemotherapy.

“As well as the letter from the Director of Commissioning Dean Sullivan expressing his support for the introduction of this invaluable test, I understand that correspondence has been issued to Health Trust Chief Executives throughout the North who have been asked to pass on the information to oncology and pathology staff.

“I therefore hope that the Trusts move forward as soon as possible to facilitate quick and equitable access to this new test – which would have a real impact on the quality of life of those women who are eligible by avoiding the brutal side-effects of chemotherapy.”