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Warning as thousands of women decline breast cancer checks in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 07:30 05 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:46 05 October 2020

Radiographers Sally Leggett and Laura Lloyd at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's mobile breast screening unit.
 Picture: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

Radiographers Sally Leggett and Laura Lloyd at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's mobile breast screening unit. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

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Thousands of women across west Suffolk have missed out on potentially life-saving breast cancer checks since screenings began again in July after lockdown.

Radiographers Sally Leggett and Laura Lloyd at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's mobile breast screening unit.
 Picture: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUSTRadiographers Sally Leggett and Laura Lloyd at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's mobile breast screening unit. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

The area usually sees 13,000 women between the ages of 50 and 71 every year for breast cancer screenings, however the number attending appointments has now dropped by 43%.

Before the lockdown, 73% of eligible women attended the screenings, but since they restarted in July that figure has dropped to 30%.

In addition, two thirds of eligible women in west Suffolk and south west Norfolk have not responded to letters offering them an appointment, while before Covid only one third didn’t respond.

Ipswich Hospital started sending inviations in the second week of September and has only seen a 5% drop in uptake, while Colchester Hospital is still sending out appointment letters and not yet launched open invitations.

Radiographers Sally Leggett and Laura Lloyd at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's mobile breast screening unit.
 Picture: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUSTRadiographers Sally Leggett and Laura Lloyd at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's mobile breast screening unit. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

Sam Newton, superintendent radiographer at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Before Covid-19, we saw around 13,000 women a year for potentially life-saving health checks but we have seen a worrying fall in appointments.

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“We invite women in the target age group to a screening once every three years.

“If you get a letter, please call us and get booked in.

“Don’t ignore it or put it off – it takes just a few minutes out of your day and could save your life.

“We know people may be worried about Covid-19 but we have careful procedures in place to ensure the screening is as safe as possible, and it is really important that we continue to detect early breast cancer.”

Women are being urged to take up the opportunity as one in every eight are affected by breast cancer, and early detection makes a huge difference in effective treatment.

Research by Estee Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Campaign has revealed that one in six women in East Anglia have deprioritised their breast health since March, while under half are likely to share their breast health concerns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shockingly, more than one in 10 women said they are unlikely to visit their doctor, despite noticing a change in their breasts.

The worrying fall in screenings in West Suffolk has come despite extended operating hours and the choice of booking your own appointment time instead of being automatically assigned a slot.


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