Van offering free life-saving breast cancer screenings to women in Leeds

A free breast cancer screening van is being made available to women across Leeds as part of a nationwide push for the potentially life-saving scans.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 4:45 pm

The screening van is expected to play a vital role in helping clear the post-pandemic backlog by seeing an additional 1,000 people per month over a six-month period.

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Nearly 20,000 women in Leeds are overdue a breast cancer screening, figures show

The push comes after recent numbers discovered that almost 20,000 women across the city are overdue their scan.

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One in eight women across the UK suffer from breast cancer with early diagnosis key. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is currently being marked across the UK and women in Leeds invited by the NHS for a free breast screening are being urged to book their appointment as soon as possible.

The NHS breast screening programme sees that every three years women aged between 50 and 71 are invited to undergo a mammogram (X-ray), designed to detect cancers that are too small to see or feel.

The latest available NHS Digital figures showed that 74 per cent of eligible women in Leeds were up to date with their screenings at the end of March 2020 - meaning roughly 19,924 were not. Leaving the city below the NHS' recommended 80 per cent mark.

Breast screening is estimated to save roughly 1,300 lives in the UK each year with a range of work currently underway to boost screening rates across Leeds, which have been impacted massively by the coronavirus pandemic.

Recent figures indicate that at least 20,000 women across Leeds are overdue a scan. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The screening van project is funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, led by Leeds City Council and delivered in partnership with the Leeds Cancer Programme. Working within Primary Care Networks in communities across the city, six Screening and Awareness coordinators are working with community areas to better understand how the screening process could be improved to meet their needs.

Dr Stuart Griffiths, Director of Research, Services and Policy at Yorkshire Cancer Research said: “As a charity, we aim to save lives in Yorkshire by encouraging more people to take part in screening. Breast screening helps find cancer at an early stage when it is too small to see or feel. When cancer is found early, it can often be treated successfully.

“As a result of the pandemic, there are now many women living in Leeds who may have missed a screening appointment or had their appointment delayed.”

Figures show that in 2019-20, roughly 9,500 women across England died from breast cancer whilst over 17,700 women aged 45 or over had the cancer detected.

Breast cancer is estimated to affect roughly one in every eight women with Dr Sarah Forbes, Associate Medical Director at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and joint clinical lead for the Leeds Cancer Programme stating the importance of early detection: “If it’s caught early there’s a really good chance of recovery,” she said “So it’s very important that women check their breasts regularly for any changes and always get any changes examined by their GP.

“Breast cancer can have a number of symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually a lump – most lumps turn out not to be serious but it’s always best to have them checked. Your GPs in Leeds are here for you and early detection is key.”

Joining coordinators and representatives of the NHS and Yorkshire Cancer Research in a special visit to Seacroft Hospital, to view the additional breast screening van now in operation across Leeds, was the city council's executive member for public health, Coun Salma Arif.

Coun Arif said: “Through different partnership initiatives such as Cancer Wise Leeds we are working extremely hard as a city to not only increase uptake in screenings, but also support various initiatives focusing on the key areas of prevention and awareness.

“Screening plays a hugely vital role in detecting cancer early, and we would urge anyone who has been invited for a breast screening in Leeds to please book their appointment immediately.”

Alongside the screening van, another project being delivered in the city is Cancer Wise Leeds. This project seeks to improve participation in the screening programmes for not only breast cancer but also bowel cancer as well as cervical cancer.

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