4,000 women missed life-saving cancer tests

Thousands of women missed potentially life-saving breast screening appointments in South Tyneside in the year leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

A patient having a breast cancer screening test.
A patient having a breast cancer screening test.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and experts are urging women to check for signs and symptoms - and for those eligible to take up their invitations for routine screenings.

The latest available NHS Digital figures show that 77% of eligible women in South Tyneside attended routine screenings between April 2019 and March 2020 – up from 75% the year before.

That means some 4,372 women were not up to date with their checks – before restrictions caused by the pandemic began – and health services in the area achieved the national minimum target of 70% but fell short of the 80% the NHS says they should aim for.

The NHS breast screening programme sees women aged between 50 and 71 invited every three years to undergo a mammogram to detect cancers that are too small to see or feel.


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Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now, said a decline in screening uptake across the UK in recent years was already a "concern" prior to the pandemic, saying the charity estimates 1.2 million fewer women had a screening in 2020 due to coronavirus-related disruption.

She said: "We must do all we can to increase the number of women taking up their invitation to breast screening, including text reminders, more convenient appointments and improving awareness of the programme."

Breast screening is estimated to save the lives of 1,300 women in England each year.