More than 18,000 women miss 'vital' breast cancer screenings in Notts

More than 18,000 women missed potentially life-saving breast screening appointments in Nottinghamshire in the year leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, experts are urging women across the UK to check for signs and symptoms of the disease and for those eligible to take up their invitations for routine screenings.

The NHS breast screening programme sees women aged between 50 and 71 invited every three years to undergo a mammogram designed to detect cancers too small to see or feel.

The latest available NHS Digital figures show 81 per cent of eligible women in Nottinghamshire attended routine screenings between April 2019 and March 2020 – meaning roughly 18,611 were not up to date with their checks.

The NHS breast screening programme sees women aged 50-71 invited every three years to undergo a mammogram.

It meant health services in the area achieved the national minimum target of 70 per cent uptake and also hit the 80 per cent the NHS says all services should aim for.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now, said a decline in screening uptake across the UK in recent years was already a ‘concern’ prior to the pandemic, adding the charity estimates 1.2 million fewer women had a screening in 2020 due to coronavirus-related disruption.

She said: “We must do all we can to increase the number of women taking up their invitation to breast screening.”

Baroness Morgan joined the NHS and Public Health England in urging women to seek medical advice if they notice any abnormal changes in their breasts.

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Prof Anne Mackie, PHE director of screening, said: “Finding cancer early means treatment is more likely to be successful.”

Breast screening is estimated to save 1,300 lives across England each year, but just 69 per cent of women offered a screening nationally in 2019-20 took up the offer, compared with 71 per cent the year before.

The most recent PHE figures at local authority level, which span a three-year period, show there were 278 breast cancer deaths in Nottinghamshire women aged up to 75 between 2017 and 2019.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said it was providing record investment in an effort to tackle backlogs influenced by the pandemic and provide an extra nine million checks, scans and operations.

He said: “Most cancer services are back to or above pre-pandemic levels.”