It’s strange that so many are missing health checks

STEVE CANAVAN: Take note of why I love this country so much

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Sadly, we know that ours is not a healthy area. In most of the many categories of data issued by the Department of Health and its statistic-happy mandarins, we fare badly.

We’re fatter than average, we smoke and drink more than average, and we live shorter lives than people in other parts of the country. We’re not the worst, but we’re not great.

A lot of this is dictated by socio-economic factors – for example, it’s widely accepted now that the more affluent an area, the higher the life expectancy. And the more deprived an area, the more likely there will be poor diets and smokers.

But regardless of the reasons why, given that we know the difficulties that are faced by many in our corner of Hampshire, it’s baffling that so many women are not turning up to free breast cancer screening checks.

While it’s right to applaud the increase in attendance this year – up by a percentage point, which translates to 600 more women – after several high-profile campaigns, it still means that more than one in four women who are invited for screening are not turning up. That’s a lot. And this comes on the back of half a million pounds that was spent last year on improving the mobile screening service and to get to see more people.

So what’s going on? All the people who are invited yet do not take up the offer can’t all have fallen ill on the day, or be too busy with work or family commitments.

Given that breast cancer is a dangerous disease, but one that can be treated, it seems astonishing that more people aren’t taking advantage of a screening, which let us repeat, is free.

So what can be done to hammer home the importance of this? The News has run several features in the last year in which women share their experiences of cancer, to continue the vitally-important process of demystifying the disease – but also banging home the point that it does still strike.

Perhaps it’s time that people took more responsibility for their own health. It remains astonishing that this service does not have a higher take-up.