Fears over missed mammograms as breast screening resumes at Wigan hospitals

Breast screening has resumed at Wigan’s hospitals, after it was stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Friday, 9th October 2020, 7:00 am

A charity estimated almost a million British women “missed” a breast cancer screening appointment because of the outbreak.

Breast Cancer Now said thousands of cancers could be undetected with their diagnosis delayed.

Breast screening services were paused at the height of the pandemic to reduce the risk of the spread and help free up NHS resources.

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Mammograms are now being carried out

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has confirmed mammograms are being done once more.

Sheena Hilton, programme manager/lead radiographer at the trust’s breast screening unit, said: “Breast screening services at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have recommenced following a short hiatus in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

But now services have begun to resume nationwide, the charity has expressed concern over the number of women caught up in the backlog.

It estimates 986,000 women across the UK missed their mammograms.

Among these women, the charity estimates there could be 8,600 who are living with undetected breast cancer.

NHS leaders are worried about the unseen iceberg of people not yet on the cancer waiting list, because they haven’t yet been tested, as well as a backlog in diagnostics, which are used to diagnose and monitor of cancer.

The charity has called on NHS bodies across the UK and the Government to set out how they plan to tackle an anticipated rise in demand for imaging and diagnostics.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “That nearly one million women across the UK were caught up in the backlog waiting for breast screening is cause for grave concern as we know that around 8,600 of these women could have been living with undetected breast cancer.

“Mammograms are a key tool in the early detection of breast cancer, which is critical to stopping women dying from the disease.

“We understand that the breast screening programme was paused out of necessity due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, but we must now press play to ensure that all women can access breast screening, and we cannot afford for the programme to be paused again. Governments and NHS health bodies across the UK must set out how the influx in demand for imaging and diagnostics will be met.”

A spokesman for the NHS in England said: “The vast majority of cancers detected through screening programmes are at a very early stage and so any impact on patients who were due to be screened is extremely low.

“More than 200,000 people were treated for cancer during the peak of the pandemic, breast screening services are now fully up and running with over 400,000 women invited between June and August and thousands more invites are now being sent every month – we would encourage anyone who is invited to book an appointment.”

The estimates come as the HSJ reported the number of people on the cancer waiting list grew from 50,000 at the start of August to around 58,000 in the middle of September.

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