Over 5,000 miss cancer screen appointments

Thousands of women in South Tyneside did not keep up to date with potentially life-saving cancer checks last year because of the pandemic, new figures show.

Breast cancer screening fears
Breast cancer screening fears

NHS England figures show 71% of eligible women in the area were up to date with their screenings at the end of March – meaning roughly 5,451 were not.

That proportion was down from 77% the year before and, although health services in the area achieved the national minimum target of 70% coverage, the figures fall short of the 80% the NHS says all services should aim for.

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Nationally, 2020-21 saw 64% of eligible women attended their last check, down from 74% in 2019-20 and the lowest coverage rate on record.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now, warned that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on screening could see hundreds die over the next decade.

She said; “Screening is a vital tool for detecting breast cancer early, and the sooner it’s diagnosed the more likely treatment is to be successful."

Screenings were seriously impacted by pandemic-related disruption and were paused between March and June 2020 to protect patients and staff from the virus, before resuming that summer.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “The pandemic inevitably had an impact on some routine services and we know that fewer people came forward for cancer checks.

“The NHS is now inviting more people than ever to be screened. Screening services save thousands of lives, so it remains vital that women come forward when they receive their invitation to do so.”