Free BreastCheck screening found cancer in 858 women
A TOTAL 858 women in their 50s and 60s, who were unaware they had cancer, had the disease picked up through free screening by BreastCheck in the course of a year.
The screening programme, which offers free X-rays to eligible women every two years, found 661 of these cancers were invasive and could spread and the rest were an early form of the disease, most of which had a likelihood of progressing.
The latest annual report showed that although 183,622 women were invited for screening in 2012, just 128,002 attended, a rate of 71.4pc overall.
However, serious concern was expressed about the fall in attendance by women who were invited for the first time. Just 66.4pc of this group availed of the screening.
Of the 29,035 women who did attend for a first-time screening, 263 were found to have cancer. They had a detection rate of 9.06 per 1,000 women screening compared to 6.01 for the older age groups.
Dr Ann O'Doherty, the lead clinical director in BreastCheck, said: "We are concerned that we are starting to see that attendance is falling among women new to the programme, particularly 50- to 54-year-olds.
"We know that many of these women are incredibly busy with many working outside the home as well as caring for their own families. We would urge every woman to put her own health first and to avail of a free mammogram when invited as it could save her life."
She said that 98pc of women received seven days' notice of an appointment and receive their mammogram results within three weeks.
Over 92pc of women who were recalled for an assessment appointment after an abnormal mammogram received the appointment in two weeks. Around 85.1pc were offered hospital admission for treatment within three weeks of learning they had the disease.
Women should be reinvited for screening every 27 months but this target was not met for everyone. Around 91.4pc were invited back within 28 months.
A promise to extend BreastCheck to older women, outside of the 50-64 age group, was shelved by the Health Service Executive (HSE) earlier this year because of lack of funding.
The report urged women in their mid-60s who will no longer be recalled to continue to be breast aware, know what is normal and what to look for. If they have any concerns they should discuss those worries with their GP.