- Nearly five lakh women may have missed out on screening due to the pandemic.
- Breast cancer now found, 1,480,000 women need mammograms
- Scans are offered to women between the ages of 50 and 71 every three years.
- Service stalled for four months during the first lockdown and employees struggling to work through backlog
1.5 lakh women have missed breast cancer screening as a result of the pandemic.
According to an analysis released yesterday by Breast Cancer Now, about 12,000 of them are no longer likely to have breast cancer and may die as a result.
The charity found that there had been a backlog of 1,480,000 women needing mammograms since the National Breast Screening Ground closed in March last year.
The scans are offered to women aged 50 to 71 every three years, which could prevent about 1,300 deaths and detect 19,000 cases a year.
But the service was suspended for four months during the first lockdown, meaning a million fewer women were tested.
Even though the screening has now resumed, the backlog has increased by half a million.
The service is still operating at low capacity due to staff shortages and stringent infection control procedures due to the pandemic.
Half a million women have missed breast cancer screening as a result of the pandemic [Stock image]
Breast Cancer Now’s Baroness Delyth Morgan called for urgent investment in a ‘chronically vulnerable imaging and diagnostic workforce’ to give women the best chance at survival.
“A year ago we reported with concern that nearly one million women potentially missed breast screening due to services being suspended in the first wave of the pandemic,” Morgan said.
‘Unfortunately, despite our diligent NHS staff, screening services operating at low capacity means there are now 1.5 million fewer women screened – a 50 per cent increase since services resumed.
‘Women with breast cancer are paying a price due to the impact of the pandemic and in the worst cases, a delayed diagnosis could mean that some women die from this devastating disease.
‘Early detection and treatment of people with undiagnosed breast cancer should be a priority, and governments across the UK must urgently ensure that there is substantial investment to do so – these women have no time to wait Not there.’
There is a need for an ‘immediate investment in the chronically unwise imaging and diagnostic workforce’ to tackle the backlog and help women with potential symptoms see a specialist early, he said.
“Only then will women receive the best care and have the best chance of survival,” he said.
The analysis comes as the Royal College of Radiologists joined Breast Cancer Now, saying breast imaging and treatment services were ‘largely under-resourced even before the pandemic hit’.
Even though the screening has now resumed, the backlog has increased by half a million. The service still operates at low capacity due to chronic staff shortages and stringent infection control procedures due to the pandemic.
It said breast screening teams are now trying to fit two-year appointments into one year.
Dr Janet Dixon, President of the Royal College of Radiologists, said: ‘Breast services, including screening, are working flat to ensure that patients can be seen as quickly as possible, and we cannot urge people enough: Have any worrying symptoms, please seek help from your GP. If you are given a screening appointment, please take it.
‘But even before the pandemic hit, breast imaging and treatment services were largely underfunded.
‘Now, screening teams are trying to fit two years of appointments into one, to capture a backlog of millions, while slowing down due to prolonged staff shortages and poor substandard facilities as well as Covid restrictions. working from.
“If the government is serious about improving breast cancer outcomes and tackling the backlog, in the short term it will have to continue investing in scanners and IT connectivity, as well as pursue stalled service reforms.
‘But ultimately, we can’t get away from the need to invest in people. The NHS needs more imaging and oncology staff to ensure that future breast cancer patients receive the care they deserve.
A spokesman for NHS England said: ‘The pandemic has inevitably meant that some patient services have been disrupted, which is why the NHS in England is investing over £70 million in additional funding for screening capacity, So that people can get the checks they need.
‘Additional weekend and evening clinics will help every woman who needs a screen to reach one, and in England the NHS is also offering open invitations to screening, so if you are invited to a screening appointment If done, please come forward and participate. ‘