ALMOST a quarter of Wigan women are failing to take up life-saving breast cancer tests.
New figures released this week show that more than 8,000 women across the borough who are eligible are not having regular screening for breast cancer.
And the data, compiled by the NHS Information Centre, also shows that the number of women being checked for the killer disease has dropped slightly between 2010 and 2011 from 25,434 to 25,362.
In light of the figures the borough’s Director of Public Health, Dr Kate Ardern, is urging women to get checked, she said: “As with many forms of cancer, the key to overcoming breast cancer lies in the early detection and treatment and we are pleased to say that survival rates for people who are diagnosed with cancer in our borough are on the increase thanks to this. “Ultimately, the decision to take up the offer of the screening process lies with the individual but we would urge all women to be ‘Breast Aware’.
“We also actively encourage all women to regularly check their breasts. If they have any concerns we encourage women to speak to their GP straight away.
“You can find about self-examination and the breast screening process through your local GP surgery.”
It is routine that once a woman reaches the age of 50 she becomes eligible for regular screening and is invited to be tested every three years until she turns 70. Not every woman will receive an invitation as soon as she turns 50 but should have before her 53rd birthday.
In 2011 there were 33,421 women between 53 and 70 within Ashton, Leigh and Wigan PCT who qualified for the routine test, yet only 25,362 were screened, meaning only 75.9 per cent of women were covered. This number is below the national average of 77.2 per cent.
Screening intends to detect breast cancer at its earliest stages using mammograms, which are low dose X-rays that detect small changes in breast tissue, which could indicate cancers.
Dr Ardern added: “The borough has a well-established breast cancer screening programme which is open to all women aged between 50 and 70. All are automatically sent an invite to a screening appointment once they turn 50, though the design of the programme means that the first invitation takes place from age 50 to 52.
At the beginning of 2011, the invitation of women aged 47 to 49 and aged 71 to 73 for breast screening started in the borough as part of the national age extension of the breast screening programme.
The specific aim is that all women will have had one opportunity for screening by the age of 50 once this is rolled out.
“The age extension programme nationally means it will take six years from the beginning of 2011 before all women in these age groups receive an invitation.
However, these women who have not received an invitation can request a screening appointment by contacting the breast screening unit directly.”
In the past year the Health Improvement Team has recruited, trained and supported 20 Cancer Champions across the public, private and voluntary sectors. The initial aim of the Champions was to raise awareness, within their own community or client group, of the early signs and symptoms of breast, bowel and lung cancers and this is being extended to include kidney and bladder cancers.
The Breast Screening Unit number is 01942 774752.