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NHS bosses urge women in Ealing to attend their breast screening appointment as numbers drop on previous year

NHS England bosses are urging women in Ealing and across England aged 50-70 to attend their NHS breast screening appointments as new data released has found that less than half of women in the borough are attending their appointment.

In Ealing during 2022-23, a total of 17,991 women aged 50 to 70 (46.9%) attended screening appointments (within six months of invitation) out of the 38,336 invited to book a check-up – a decrease on 2021-22 (49.5%).

Neighbouring boroughs Brent (53.5%), Harrow (62%), Hounslow (56.1%) have higher take up rates compared to Ealing, while Hammersmith & Fulham is similar (46.5%).

NHS Breast Screening in London
NHS Breast Screening in London

A woman’s risk of getting breast cancer goes up as they get older, with around four out of five breast cancers found in women over 50 years old.

The NHS offers women their first invitation for breast cancer screening between the ages of 50 and 53 and following that will then be invited every three years until their 71st birthday. The NHS says that women over 71 are not automatically invited but can still have breast screening every 3 years if they want to.

NHS bosses say the screening helps to detect cancers in women which otherwise may not be diagnosed and treated until a later stage.

Dr Louise Wilkinson, consultant radiologist and national specialist advisor for breast screening at NHS England said: “Around one in seven women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, and detecting it at an early stage helps give people the best chance of successful treatment.

“Figures show that 18,942 women (across England) were diagnosed and able to seek treatment because they attended breast screening check-ups last year. We know that lives are saved when cancers are caught early. I know life gets busy, but I would urge anyone who has received a breast screening invitation – even if you received the invite weeks or months ago – to put your health at the top of your to-do list and book an appointment at your local screening service or mobile unit. It could save your life.”

Government Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: “It is vital that women come forward for breast screening when invited, as early cancer diagnosis can make all the difference. We’re making it as easy as possible to attend appointments and screening rates are rising, but there are still too many women missing out so I urge everyone receiving that text invite or that letter to book a check-up – it could be lifesaving.”

In a statement to EALING.NEWS, NHS NW London ICS said: “Breast screening is a national programme where all women who are registered with a GP practice and are between the ages of 50-70 will be invited to attend screening. This occurs at a fixed site or mobile unit in the local area and you can find your local screening services via https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-health-services/breast-screening-services

“In terms of awareness for breast and cancer screening in general, this occurs through patient engagement campaigns run by the NHS and via Public Health. Those patients in the relevant age group will be made aware of the importance and availability of screening during the course of normal consultation with their general practice. Patient letters and text messages may be used to promote and provide information to patients where there is low uptake.

“Ealing GPs receive support from the Royal Marsden Partners Cancer Alliance to help them engage with their populations regarding the national Breast Cancer Screening programme. The support consists of a cancer screening facilitator, a GP cancer clinical lead and a health promotion manager of the West London Breast Screening Service. GPs will proactively engage with those patients who have not attended by either letter, text and opportunistically when the patient contacts the surgery. Every GP practice engagement will vary, there is an NHSE Primary Care Network Direct Enhanced Service focused on Early Cancer Diagnosis and screening is a core component of this.”

To find out more about NHS breast screening, visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/breast-screening-mammogram

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