Breast cancer screening warning

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ONE in four women eligible for breast cancer screening tests in Wigan borough are not taking up the offer.

A recent report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) found that only 74.2 per cent of the 23,453 women eligible for breast screening in Wigan borough took up the offer, prompting health chiefs to issue an urgent plea for women to take cancer screening more seriously.

The national average is 76.4 per cent. At present women aged between 53-70 are eligible for screening.

The news comes as researchers at the nearby University of Manchester found 14,593 women had an “above average” risk of developing breast cancer.

They hope the study will help prevent cases of breast cancer through women being more aware of their own risk and adopting certain lifestyle changes.

Wigan’s director of public health, prof Kate Ardern, said: “It is important that women take up the offer of routine breast screening when invited by their local NHS and always visit their GP immediately if they have any changes in feel, appearance or unusual lumps. It is far better to get anything unusual checked out than worry about it.”

An above average risk was defined in the study as a 3.5 per cent chance of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years. Women aged between 50 and 70 are currently offered a mammogram once every three years, to help identify cancer early, so treatment has a better chance of working.

Lead researcher Gareth Evans, at the University of Manchester, said greater prevention would not only save more women the “awful” actuality of being diagnosed, but would also save the NHS an “enormous amount of money”.

Prof Evans said in an “ideal world”, women could fill in an online questionnaire documenting their risk factors and then have their breast tissue density analysed by a mammogram.

He said those at a greater risk could have more regular screening, to detect cancer early and stop it spreading.

Certain lifestyle changes could also be adopted, such as exercising, which he said decreases risk by 30 per cent, losing weight, and reducing alcohol intake.