‘Don’t ignore your screening invite’ warns Liverpool grandmother with breast cancer
1 month ago
A Liverpool grandmother is urging women to attend their breast screening appointments after new figures show almost 40% of those eligible do not attend their check.
She is warning them not to ignore their invitation for a mammogram – after her screening found she had breast cancer.
Last year (2021-22) in the North West, 492,467 women aged 50 to 70 (62.8%) attended screening appointments within six months of invitation, out of the 783,575 invited to book a check-up – a slight increase on the previous year (62%).
In Cheshire and Merseyside the take up varies between 70.5% in Cheshire West and Chester and just 57% in Liverpool.
The NHS invited record numbers of women to attend breast screening appointments nationally in the last year (3.17m invitations) – the highest ever for a single year – in order to catch up on those who were not screened during the pandemic.
Sue Makin, 66, understands better than most the importance of breast screening after a routine mammogram detected an aggressive form of breast cancer in the very early stages.
Sue, a mother of two and grandmother of four, from Aintree, had attended her breast screening appointment at a mobile unit in Kirkby in July last year. While waiting for the result, she noticed a small breast lump and some dimpling.
After being called back for a further mammogram and ultrasound scan, which also found cancer in a lymph node under her arm, stage 2 breast cancer was diagnosed.
Sue, a patient representative for Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance, is telling her story to encourage other women to come forward for their breast screening appointments when invited.
She said: “I really believe in the importance of screening and I’m so relieved that I attended my routine mammogram appointment when I did. The lump was tiny and the cancer was caught very early.
“No-one wants to get a cancer diagnosis, but it’s better to know about it as early as possible so you can begin treatment.”
Sue underwent a lumpectomy and six months of chemotherapy at Aintree Hospital, a 10-minute drive from her home. She will shortly be starting the final part of her treatment, a three-week course of radiotherapy.
She added: “It’s been brilliant being able to have all my treatment so close to home. I’ve been really well throughout and the NHS staff have been marvellous.
“My advice to other women is, if there’s a test, take it. There’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve been checked out. Most times you get the all-clear, but if you don’t then it’s about giving yourself the best possible chance.”
New national figures on Cancer Survival in England show that 91% of women diagnosed at an early stage of breast cancer, where the tumour is small (stage 1), have a survival rate of at least five years. The five-year survival rate for diagnosis at a late stage, where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (stage 4), is 39%.
Under the NHS Breast Screening Programme, eligible women will usually receive their first routine invitation for breast cancer between the ages of 50 and 53, and will normally be invited every three years until they are 70.
Women should look out for their invitation letter and follow the instructions to book an appointment at their local screening service.
In addition to local screening services in hospitals, mobile screening vans are available in convenient community locations, such as supermarket car parks for women to easily book and access.
Dr Michael Gregory, Medical Director at NHS England – North West said:
“Sue’s story shows us just how effective the NHS breast screening programme is at detecting cancer at an early stage, and the earlier cancer is found the more treatable it is.
“Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, but also has one of the highest survival rates, which is in part thanks to the breast screening programme, as early detection makes all the difference.
“So I would encourage women to be Breast Aware and understand their breast health. I would also urge anyone who has received an appointment letter for breast screening to take up the offer and book an appointment at your local screening service as soon as possible.”
NHS England is also asking women of all ages to be know how to check themselves for cancer symptoms. Being ‘breast aware’ means getting to know how your breasts look and feel at different times and telling your doctor straight away if you notice any unusual changes.
It takes only a few minutes to perform and can help detect breast cancers at an earlier stage.
It is important that women continue to look at and check their breasts regularly, even if they have had a recent mammogram. Anyone who has noticed any abnormal changes should contact their GP as soon as possible.
Women are encouraged to use the ‘TLC’ method for checking their breasts and can visit Breast Cancer Now for more information:
- TOUCH your breasts. Can you feel anything new or unusual?
- LOOK for changes. Does anything look different?
- CHECK any new or unusual changes with your GP
Below you can see the breast cancer screening uptake figures for local authority areas in Cheshire and Merseyside:
- Cheshire West and Chester – 70.5%
- Wirral – 69.0%
- Sefton – 67.6%
- Cheshire East – 65.1%
- St Helens – 64.6%
- Warrington – 61.9%
- Knowsley – 58.7%
- Halton – 57.7%
- Liverpool – 57.0%