Campaigns fail to drive up breast cancer screening rate

Consultant analyzing a mammogram

Consultant analyzing a mammogram

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Attempts to increase the number of women being screened for breast cancer are failing in the Lothians.

New figures show that only 71.8 per cent of women aged between 50 and 70 accepted the offer of a scan in the three years to 2011.

The Lothians now have the second worse uptake in the whole of Scotland – only Glasgow fares worse – and the figure is a small drop on the previous period.

NHS Lothian said that since then it had introduced new initiatives which should result in a better uptake.

Under the new initiative, women in some areas of the Lothians who fail to attend their mammogram are now contacted by their GP to ask why they missed it. During the call, doctors stress the benefits of screening.

Women who have had positive experiences of screening have also been recruited as community champions to encourage others to attend.

James Jopling, interim Scotland director at Edinburgh-based charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “The main reasons people don’t take up the offer of screening are lack of awareness of breast cancer itself along with poor awareness of the importance of screening,” he said.

“For some there is also a concern that mammograms can sometimes be uncomfortable while for others it is a worry about what the result might be.

“Those who don’t attend screening tend to be those women in socially deprived communities or women in ethnic communities.

“Compared to other parts of Scotland, Lothian has relatively more socially deprived areas, which can explain the lower uptake on screening.”

Dr Sue Payne, consultant in public health medicine for NHS Lothian, said: “I would encourage all women over 50 to take up the invitation. Early detection allows us to begin treatment quicker, which can increase the chances of success.

“Over 70 per cent of women in Lothian already attend their regular screening appointment and we are working hard to increase this number.

“We have actively improved the screening experience as a result of feedback from women. We have also been working to get a better understanding of why women do not attend their screening appointment.”

‘The earlier you’re diagnosed the better’

Andrina Gordon, 55, a retired welfare officer from Bonnyrigg, is undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time.

Her first diagnosis came in 2005. She had found lumps in her breast and had them checked, but they were initially found to be only fatty tissue.

At the time she was too young to qualify for regular checks, but when she noticed the lumps changing she went back to the doctor and was quickly referred for a mammogram.

She urged women to take up the offer of regular scans. “The earlier you’re diagnosed, the better the outlook. I would say to people to get checked even if they don’t have any concerns because the mammogram might show up something they’re not aware of.”

Andrina has set up a dragon boat team for cancer survivors, which is recruiting – see www.portedgar dragons.co.uk.