Portsmouth lags behind in breast screening uptake

SCAN Portsmouth came bottom of a league table of women missing breast screening appointments.
SCAN Portsmouth came bottom of a league table of women missing breast screening appointments.

Residents in south east ‘in hibernation’

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WOMEN in Portsmouth are less likely to have potentially life-saving breast screening than anywhere else in the region.

Thousands of women across the city are risking their lives by failing to go for routine mammogram checks designed to detect breast cancer, according to the latest figures released by the NHS Information Centre.

Portsmouth is ranked the worst in the south central area for the number of women aged between 53 and 70 tested for pre-cancerous cells on the NHS every three years.

Last year only 72.4 per cent of those eligible in Portsmouth had gone for the check-up in the previous three years – below the regional average of 79.5 per cent and the England average of 76.9 per cent.

Health officials say it is hard to say why Portsmouth’s results are lowest, but say the city is renowned for low screening uptake and efforts are being made to improve awareness.

The NHS is now urging women to not ignore the offer of the test which could potentially save their life.

Sue Saunders, superintendent radiographer in breast screening services based at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham said: ‘While we encourage women to be breast aware anyway, a mammogram will detect something before it’s even big enough for you to find yourself. That’s why the screening is so important.

‘It’s hard to say why Portsmouth has the lowest screening figures. But the target is 80 per cent and we definitely don’t reach that in any area.

‘There are lots of reasons why people might not come for their mammogram. It could be the fear factor, or they are embarrassed.

‘There’s also a bit of “it probably won’t happen to me”. But then there are other reasons such as people who can’t get paid time off work.

‘We do ask people why they haven’t come for an appointment and invite them to come in any time. And when women do come in, we’ll ask them why they didn’t before.

‘All I would say to women is come along and give us a go. Don’t listen to stories about it being painful.

‘It’s a free test, it’s quick – about ten minutes – it’s uncomfortable but it’s not horrendous, and most importantly it could save your life.’

Meanwhile in Hampshire last year, 79.9 per cent of women eligible for a mammogram took up the breast screening test.

Overall, figures showed that of the 156,303 women in Portsmouth and Hampshire who could have the breast screening test last year, only 123,565 took up the offer of the check-up.