Text reminders and flexible appointment times have been introduced to make the screening as accessible as possible and encourage women to attend for their appointments.
All women aged from 50 to their 71st birthday, and registered with a GP, are automatically invited for routine breast cancer screening every 3 years. However, on the Island, only between 40-60% of women take up the invitation to attend their first screening appointment compared to the national target of 80%.
Nicola Cooper, Assistant Operational Manager for Breast Imaging, said:
“We’re not alone in getting women to attend their first screening appointment, this is a problem experienced up and down the country. We find that once women attend their first screening and meet our wonderful staff they very quickly overcome any anxieties and return every 3 years without concern. But our real challenge is getting women to take up that very first appointment.”
A number of public engagement events have been held across the Island which has helped the Breast Screening team to understand some of the reasons why women are not always taking up the offer of screening at 50. Busy lifestyles, anxieties about the screening process, a denial of reaching screening age and a preconception that screening stops at 70 years have all been raised by women as reasons for not attending.
The Breast Screening team spoke to women and men at local events including Jack up the 80s, IW Heritage day, Newport Christmas Lights, Breast Cancer Now event at Brading as well as having information stands at St. Mary’s Hospital, Sainsbury’s Newport and have linked with General Practitioners (GPs) and Learning Disability services to listen to people’s experiences and dispel some of the myths.
Nicola Cooper continued:
“We are continually looking at how we can improve the overall screening experience and ensure the service is flexible and meets the needs of the women that attend.
“Screening is so important and should be considered routine for women over 50yrs. We want women to contact us about any concerns they may have before making a decision not to go along to their appointment.
“I’d like to thank our wonderful team of radiographers, administration team, nursing staff and patient representatives who dedicated lots of time getting out and about and speaking to women over the past two years. They have all been brilliant and our service has improved as a result of this work.”
Women who have been invited for screening but have concerns are encouraged to contact the Breast Screening Team at St. Mary’s Hospital on 01983 534560 for an informal chat.
If you are female or male and are worried about breast cancer symptoms, such as a lump or area of thickened tissue in a breast, or notice that your breasts look or feel different from what’s normal for you, you should see your GP – don’t wait to be offered screening.