Women in parts of Dundee among lowest in country for breast cancer screening

Reporter Lindsey Hamilton attends her appointment for breast screening and gets a check-up by Patsy Whelehan, clinical specialist radiographer

Women in some areas of Dundee are less likely to go for breast cancer screening than women in the rest of Scotland.

The take-up rate in the city is lower than the NHS target and the poor response to breast cancer clinics is being linked — in part — to poverty and deprivation in the city

Now, breast cancer specialists in Dundee have said they are working with local communities to spread the word among women about the importance of having breast cancer checks.

Douglas Brown, consultant breast surgeon with NHS Tayside, said: “NHS Tayside staff work actively with local communities to ensure that everyone can access cancer screening programmes.

“This is especially important in Dundee where the response to screening invitations is lower than in previous years.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, but through early detection and with effective modern treatments the long-term outcome is excellent. So we’re asking woman not to ignore their breast screening invitation.

“Screening is offered to women aged 50 to 70 every three years. It’s proven that early detection leads to early diagnosis, which improves the chances of successful treatment and recovery.

“Breast screening is vitally important as mammograms can pick up breast cancer at an earlier stage, often before a person would feel any symptoms.”

Patsy Whelehan, clinical specialist radiographer based at Ninewells, added that in certain areas of Dundee uptake of invitations for breast cancer screening are well below the target set by the NHS.

She said: ”It’s recognised that in certain areas of Dundee fewer woman than in other parts of the city and throughout Tayside and Scotland as a whole attend for breast screening appointments.”

Patsy said that the aim of the NHS is that at least 70% of women will take up the offer of breast screening.

In Tayside, in the period 2013-2016, 76.1% of women went for breast screening.

The figure is above the 71.9% Scottish average, but the lowest uptake in the region since 2007.

But in Dundee, that figure is below the 70% target.

Patsy said there are a number of reasons why women don’t take up the invitation.

She said: “We’re aware there is an association between the uptake and the socio-economic climate.

“There are areas of high deprivation in Dundee — so this is linked to some women not attending for screening.

“Other reasons include fear of cancer being diagnosed, embarrassment, discomfort at their appointment, being too busy and fatalism, where they fear they could end up dying.

“We know that we can prevent death from breast cancer through screening.

“We try to give women as much information as possible to make an informed choice but we would like to see as many women as possible come forward for screening,” she said.