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Fewer women take up breast screening
THE uptake of breast screening by eligible women in Swindon saw a slight decline this year – but work is being done in the town to increase the numbers.
New figures released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that in 2012, 78.8 per cent of eligible women (11,191 women) took up the offer of screening, compared to 79.4 per cent in 2011.
However, the figures compared favourably to the national uptake, which stood at 73.1 per cent among women aged 50 to 70 – a fall from 73.4 per cent in 2010-11 and 73.6 per cent in 2006-07.
The lowest uptake was among women aged 71 to 74, which came in at 67.7 per cent. This age group covers the recent extension of the screening programme to include women aged 71 to 73 which is currently being rolled out across England.
Suzie Ferrari, the breast centre manager at the Great Western Hospital, said: “We are aware of the figures and we try and promote breast screening all the time.
“We are quite pleased with the latest figures – we are above the national uptake. “The reasons for the slight decline is that we are on a three-year screening rota, so the people screened last year were different to the year before, so we do expect it to change a little between the years.
“We are doing a lot of surgeries in slightly more deprived areas where the uptake seems to be lower – a lot of it is down to understanding and ethnic minorities.”
A new breast screening mobile unit has been located next to Moredon Surgery and eligible women are now given two appointments as opposed to one.
And visits have been made to several surgeries in the area to see what can be done to improve uptake.
“I have visited several GP surgeries where we know there is going to be a low uptake and we have given lists to GPs of those who haven’t turned up so they can contact them and see if there is anything that can be done to help,” said Suzie.
“We used to just send one appointment for each person and if they didn’t attend we would say, ‘give us a ring if you would like to come,’ but now we send out two appointments and that seems to have made a difference.
“I know it can be quite a contentious issue, and not everyone agrees with it, but the benefits definitely outweigh the risks. “Some people worry that they might have to have something done for something that wouldn’t have eventually killed them, especially older women.
“And some people worry about it being uncomfortable.
“But we are always happy to talk it through with them and they are welcome to come and visit us and see what is involved.
“It is all over very quickly – it is a little bit uncomfortable, and some people may find it a bit embarrassing, but it is not painful.
“It involves us taking two pictures of each breast and it can be over in about five minutes.”
HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said: “The figures reveal that the number of women in England who are taking up breast screening invitations has been fairly consistent in recent years with almost three quarters of all women aged 50 to 70 deciding to take up their invitation for breast screening.”