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    The start date for breast cancer screening suspended

    The start date for the Royal Decree that would change the way mammograms are refunded has been suspended, Public Health Minister Maggie De Block’s cabinet confirmed on Saturday. It was supposed to come into effect on the 1 April. The opposition is concerned that the initial Royal Decree is still being publicised by the Belgian Monitor, despite the Minister’s announcement that it had been suspended. “Another Royal Decree is being prepared” to confirm its suspension, according to Maggie De Block’s cabinet.

    “We can say that Maggie De Block has not acted on her words, as the Royal Decree is still being published by the Belgian Monitor and will therefore still come into effect on 1 April,” cdH head for the Chamber, Catherine Fonck, said in a statement on Saturday morning.

    Another Royal Decree is being prepared to confirm the suspension of the bill coming into effect, the Public Health Minister’s spokesman said on Saturday. The original bill was announced on the 12 March.

    The Royal Decree would have meant women under 45 and over 74 would no longer have breast cancer screening refunded, apart from exceptional cases. A single yearly screening between the ages of 45 and 50 would be advised and refunded. Only a single screening every two years would be refunded for women between the ages of 50 and 74. The bill has been heavily criticised and caused a wave of panic.

    “I just don’t understand,” Maggie De Block told L’Echo on Saturday. “I’ve found myself defending the project alone, despite the fact it’s for the well-being of all women, especially French-speaking ones,” she said. “Some have used this project to make people believe I want to be play favourites between the communities, when it’s actually the exact opposite. We have almost achieved the appropriate screening rates in Flanders. I want to help Wallonia catch up.”

    “There is a cultural difference between Flanders and Wallonia when it comes to screening. We know that. Therefore, we have given women aged 45 the possibility to go to a specialist of their choice and be refunded. There is also the possibility for younger women to do the same if they are higher risk or they are displaying symptoms. Let’s stop exaggerating,” says Maggie De Block. “Due to the emotion it has generated, I would prefer to continue with this project once everything has calmed down.”

    Catherine Fonck has once again called on the Health Minister to change the bill, even though “some elements of it are positive”. If nothing is changed, the opposition MP says “only women at very high risk will be able have their screening refunded before the age of 45, which is a very low number. It would be possible to combine protection against the harmful effects of radiation and individual screening for women before the age of 45, but only if it is justified,” says Catherine De Fonck. She pointed out that “20% of breast cancer patients are women under 50.”

    Sarah Johansson 
    The Brussels Times