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Women 'fear breast cancer testing'

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Breast cancer screening take-up rates could rise if nurses and other healthcare professionals were better trained to discuss fears their patients might have about the procedure.

A study by the Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust discovered that many women chose not to attend mammogram appointments because they are scared, anxious and embarrassed.

The Newcastle-centred study examined reasons why some women fail to attend breast cancer screening appointments while others do not.

The researchers discovered that even in deprived areas, which traditionally have low breast cancer screening rates, the difference in uptake between GP practices could be as much as 10%.

Another reason given for why women might not get their breasts checked for tumours or abnormal growths was because they thought they would never develop cancer.

Their findings were presented at a recent National Cancer Research Institute cancer conference in Liverpool.

Lead author Julie Tucker said: “Our results show that more must be done to tackle the low uptake of screening and poor awareness of breast cancer symptoms.

“We must ensure that GPs, nurses and health professionals feel able to talk to women about the pros and cons of breast screening as well as what signs and symptoms they need to look out for.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Access to breast cancer screening must also be drastically improved i.e allow women to attend a screening centre of their choice in the location that best fits in with their work, caring and family commitments. At the moment there is no choice of centre at all - you can only go to the designated screening centre on your own"patch" or not be screened at all i.e take it or leave it!

    This is especially important to women in rural areas such as Devon where women are only allowed to attend the screening centres on their own "patch", even when there is a screening centre just up the road from them,but which is in a different "patch" which they are not allowed to attend.

    In Devon, the East Devon and West Devon screening co-ordinators need to urgently review their access criteria so that women in Devon are free to use whichever centre is easiest for them - and preferably include Cornwall in any such new arrangements, to ensure maximum flexibility across the peninsula.

    Access to screening centres for women living in rural areas is difficult enough for those who can drive, it's almost impossible for those who are dependant on rural public transport and simply dont have the time to spare to do a "day-trip" to the breast screening centre on limited rural bus services.

    Patient Choice needs to be urgently extended to the Breast Screening Service, so that women can attend the most convenient centre for them. That is a simple and practical way to improve uptake, especially from women who are struggling to cope financially and who simply cannot afford long journeys, and those who are juggling their time on a daily basis to care for other family members.

    I hope someone responsible for the breast screening programme and/or cancer service improvement will pick up and action these suggestions.

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