By Alanna Kennedy
Advocate Q&A: Advocacy in Ireland
An advocate shares the issues breast cancer patients face in the Emerald Isle
By Alanna Kennedy
Six years ago, Christine Murphy-Whyte of Blackrock, Ireland, was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer after having a mammogram in a national screening program. Today, she is the chairperson of Europa Donna Ireland. It’s an affiliate member of Europa Donna—the European Breast Cancer Coalition—a group that seeks to raise awareness of breast cancer throughout Europe.
Recently, Murphy-Whyte spoke to CR about the unique issues that breast cancer patients face in Ireland. She also shared her impressions of this year’s Scientist↔Survivor Program, an event hosted in April by the American Association for Cancer Research to bring advocates and cancer researchers together to discuss the latest developments in cancer research.
CR: What inspired you to become a patient advocate?
Murphy-Whyte: I was diagnosed with no history or symptoms of any kind. I realized pretty quickly that I was fortunate because I happened to live in the part of the country that had this national population screening, because there were parts of the country that didn’t have screening in place. [And I was treated] at one of the centers of excellence in the country for breast cancer; it was down the road from where I lived. But it was a very different scene in other parts of the country.
It was really that overwhelming feeling of how lucky I was having got the diagnosis and having got it early—and that I happened to be in a part of the country where that went as successfully as it did for me.
CR: What issues most concern Europa Donna Ireland?
Murphy-Whyte: Part of our mission is [to ensure] that women of all ages across Ireland will know what they can expect in terms of the risk of getting breast cancer, that they will get accurately diagnosed, get optimal treatment, and have the recovery and support they need. We have been campaigning for the [national screening program] to be extended the whole way round the country.
And in the last couple of years, [Ireland has] had a number of very public misdiagnosis errors in relation to breast cancer that have really thrown the public spotlight onto the services for breast cancer and have highlighted [the need] to get specialist breast centers in place.