Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has joined forces with other MPs and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, the UK?s leading breast cancer charity, to highlight the need for all women aged 50 and over in Hertfordshire to attend their breast screening appointments when invited.
Breast screening invitations are sent to all women aged between 50 and 65 every three years and this is being extended to women up to 70 by the end of 2004. New research from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer and Breakthrough reveals that not all women in this age group are taking advantage of the service.
Their report, published this month, shows that one in six women not attending their breast screening appointments say it is because it was not convenient. As a result they cancelled and never re-arranged another time. The report also recognises that in some areas of the country the uptake of screening invitations falls as much as 20% short of the NHS Breast Screening Programme?s 70% target.
The research, a survey of 2,500 women, also suggests that women over 50 underestimate the benefits of breast screening and overestimate their own ability to spot signs of the disease. Of those women surveyed who did not attend their appointments:
? Approximately one in 14 (7%) thought they were not in a high risk category for developing the disease ? although over 80% of all breast cancers occur in women aged 50 and over and the risk of developing the disease increases with age.
? 9% said they felt they knew their own bodies well enough to spot breast cancer although of all the breast cancers detected by the screening programme, over half are too small to be felt by the human hand.
? One in 10 said they would rather not know if they had breast cancer ? even though the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed and treated the better the chances of survival.
As a result, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer and Breakthrough are calling on the Health Secretary to investigate ways to make the screening service more flexible and accessible to the women it was set up to serve.
Peter Lilley said: “Breast cancer is now the UK?s most common cancer with over 40,000 diagnosed with the disease each year and one in nine women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some stage during their lifetime.
“The earlier breast cancer is detected the better the chances of survival. The Breast Screening Programme is a vital and effective part of the UK?s efforts to reduce the death toll from this devastating disease but it is essential that women in Hitchin and Harpenden take advantage of this and attend when invited.?