Women urged to attend breast screening appointments

Don’t forget your breast screening appointment.

This is the message from NHS Western Isles to women aged between 50 and 70 who receive a breast screening appointment at the mobile unit.

Healthcare staff are also urging women unable to attend their scheduled appointment to contact the Breast Screening Centre as soon as possible so that their appointment can be rescheduled.

The Breast Screening Unit has been in Stornoway since the end of January. In the first week in Stornoway, 16 per cent of women failed to attend their appointment (45 women) without notifying the Breast Screening Centre, and in the second week 17 per cent of women (48 women) failed to attend without notification. This represents roughly eight hours (or one whole day) of wasted appointment time per week, when appointments could have been offered to women aged 71 and over, who are invited to self refer for screening.

All eligible ladies will receive an invitation letter from the Breast Screening Team. The team visits the Western Isles every three years, so it is important that women attend their appointment, where possible. Women aged 71 and over are also encouraged to attend through self referral by contacting the Breast Screening Centre in Inverness on 01463 705416.

Alongside self-checking, breast screening plays a vital role in detecting cancer at an early stage before symptoms become noticeable; and is particularly important as breast cancer is more common in women aged over 50.

Breast screening involves taking an x-ray (mammogram) of the breast. Two views of each breast will be taken to ensure all parts of the breast tissue can be examined. Your mammograms will be assessed by specialist clinical staff. You will receive your result by post within three weeks of your appointment, and your GP will also be notified of the result. Most women will be invited again in three years time as part of the routine screening process. You may be invited back for further tests, which could mean that your mammogram is showing an area the doctors would like to image more clearly.

Convenor of the Lewis and Harris Breast Cancer Support Group Mary Macleod said: “The vast majority of results are clear, however it is vitally important that women attend their screening appointments to make sure that, if cancer is detected, it is picked up as early as possible. We would strongly urge all women over 50 to attend a screening appointment.”

Martin Malcolm, NHS Western Isles Interim Cervical and Breast Screening Coordinator, added: We know that if breast cancer is found at an early stage, treatment has the greatest chance of being successful. The best way of doing this is by having regular mammograms, as you may not be able to see or feel any early changes to your breasts. Breast cancer can affect any woman, and it affects one in 10 Scottish women at some time in their life.”

He added: “If you are unable to attend your scheduled appointment, please let the Breast Screening Centre as soon as possible, so that your appointment slot can be reallocated and you can be offered an alternative date for your own appointment.”

Around five in 100 women will be invited to a second stage of screening to attend an appointment for further tests. It is important to remember that the vast majority of those invited back are found to be clear of any breast disease and will be returned to routine recall.

If you have any queries, or have not yet received an appointment, contact the Breast Screening Centre in Inverness on 01463 705416.