Breast cancer screening rates drop to 10-year low in Lothians

Breast cancer screening. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Breast cancer screening. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THOUSANDS of women in Lothian could be putting themselves at risk of breast cancer after the number snubbing vital screening hit a ten-year high.

Official NHS data revealed around a third of eligible women rejected routine breast x-rays between 2012 and 2015, Lothian’s worst figures since records began in 2004.

NHS Lothian screened 69.8 per cent of women during that period, missing the Scottish Government’s 70 per cent target for the first time in more than a decade.

All women aged between 50 and 70 are invited for a mammogram every three years at the South East Scotland Breast Screening Centre, at Ardmillan House, in Gorgie.

Screening has attracted controversy as some experts have claimed it only offers modest benefits. However, supporters say the process can detect cancers at an earlier stage, with the service picking up 1300 cases across Scotland last year.

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said: “We know that people living in deprived communities are much less likely to go for screening and action is needed to make sure women who want to have a scan aren’t missing out. Breast cancer screening aims to detect cancers at an early stage, when treatment is most likely to be successful.

“It’s vital women are given all the available information about the potential harms and benefits of screening. This information should be simple to understand and readily available.”

Despite attempts to improve the uptake, Lothian fell behind every health board in Scotland except for Glasgow and Lanarkshire in encouraging women to get checked.

Dr Duncan McCormick, a public health medicine consultant at NHS Lothian, said: “Early detection allows us to begin treatment quicker, which can increase the chances of success.

“In Lothian, nearly 70 per cent of women already attend their regular screening appointment, but we recognise the need to work harder to make sure this number does not reduce.

“We have actively improved the screening experience as a result of feedback from women attending our screening centre at Ardmillan House and our mobile units. We are also working with GP practices to investigate and understand why some women do not attend their screening appointment.”

In 2014, four women who took part in regular screening were given a Hollywood walk of fame-style star outside Asda’s Chesser store as part of a campaign to increase screening rates.

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com