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Almost 7,000 Bexley women missed last breast cancer check, Public Health England reveals

PUBLISHED: 07:31 28 December 2018 | UPDATED: 07:31 28 December 2018

A woman undergoing a routine mammogram to screen for early signs of breast cancer. Picture: Society and College of Radiographers

A woman undergoing a routine mammogram to screen for early signs of breast cancer. Picture: Society and College of Radiographers

Society and College of Radiographers

Thousands of women in Bexley missed their last screening for breast cancer, NHS figures show.

Women are invited for a breast screening every three years between the ages of 50 and 70, to try and catch cancer early.

But, “troubling” figures show the proportion of women accepting the invitation is declining.

Only 76.8pc of the 29,759 women in the Bexley Clinical Commissioning Group area due a screening in the three years to the end of March took up the offer.

This means 6,910 women are not up to date with their checks.

The data measures how many eligible women were checked at least once in the three year period, meaning some women could be years overdue.

Across England the proportion of women who attended their last check was 72pc.

Of those who were sent an invitation in the 12 months to March, just 70.5pc had attended within six months of their invite, according to NHS Digital.

This is the lowest level since the current screening programme began in 2007.

The UK National Screening Committee says the minimum acceptable level of coverage is 70%, but the NHS is expected to achieve 80pc.

Addie Mitchell, clinical nurse specialist at the charity Breast Cancer Care, said: “Uptake of routine screening invitations in England has been gradually slipping year-on-year.

“These troubling figures show we’re now only a hair’s breadth above the minimum standard.

“While screening is not a one-stop shop, as symptoms can occur at any time, mammograms remain the most effective tool at our disposal for detecting breast cancer at the earliest possible stage.”

Almost a third of the 260 Clinical Commissioning Groups in England failed to meet the minimum target, while only one managed to pass the 80pc benchmark.

Uptake in Bexley bucked the national trend last year, rising from 74.7pc in 2016-17.

The breast screening programme uses an X-ray test called a mammogram to detect tumours before they are large enough to feel.

Detecting cancer early on gives a better chance of survival.

Dr Anne Mackie, director of screening at Public Health England, said it was “concerning” that uptake has fallen, particularly among younger women invited for their first test.

She continued: “We are working hard with NHS and local community healthcare colleagues to understand why this might be and to make appointments as easy as possible to attend for all women who want to get screened.”

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