Fewer women are being screened for cervical and breast cancer
Almost ONE MILLION fewer women are being screened for cervical and breast cancer compared to a decade ago, new figures reveal
- Only 70 per cent of eligible women were screened for cervical cancer last year
- And 64 per cent of eligible women attended breast cancer screenings last year
- Caused by breast cancer workforce crisis in NHS and pandemic disruption
Almost one million fewer women are being screened for cervical and breast cancer compared with ten years ago.
Only 70 per cent of eligible women were screened for signs of cervical cancer last year – 289,000 fewer than in 2011.
And just 64 per cent of eligible women attended breast cancer screenings last year – 607,000 fewer than in 2011, according to the analysis of NHS figures by the Labour Party.
Experts say a combination of a crisis in the NHS breast cancer workforce and the disruption of the pandemic has exacerbated the already declining uptake in screenings.
Screening for cancer can save lives as early detection makes treatment more likely to be successful.
Baroness Morgan, pictured, said there is a crucial need for breast cancer screenings as they detect the disease sooner
Breast screening saves around 1,300 lives each year in the UK, according to the NHS.
Around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year and around 690 women die from the disease – approximately two deaths every day.
It is estimated that if everyone attended screening regularly, 83 per cent of cervical cancer cases could be prevented, according to Public Health England.
Women have also been forced to wait weeks for screenings.
One in every ten women waited more than three weeks for their cervical screening result in 2020 to 2021, according to Labour’s analysis.
Around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England each year and around 690 women die from the disease – approximately two deaths every day (stock image)
More than 50,000 suspected breast cancer patients waited more than two weeks to see a consultant in the past year after being urgently referred by their GP, it also found.
The Government was due to set out the ten-year cancer plan this summer, but with less than two weeks left of August, it is yet to be published.
Samantha Dixon, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: ‘It is highly frustrating that cervical screening attendance continues to fall. It is one of the tools we have to prevent, and one day even eliminate, cervical cancer.
‘There is no magic solution to increasing attendance, but availability of appointments, national awareness campaigns, community outreach and investing in innovation are just some of the things that should be prioritised. If not we will sadly see more diagnoses which could have been prevented.’
More than 50,000 suspected breast cancer patients waited more than two weeks to see a consultant in the past year after being urgently referred by their GP, the analysis also found (stock image)
Baroness Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘There has been an ongoing decline in uptake of breast screening in England over recent years, which has been severely exacerbated by disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘Breast screening is a vital tool in detecting cancer at the earliest possible stage when treatment is most likely to be successful. It’s therefore vital the government sets out how it will address the shortfall in the number of women screened and prioritise improving uptake of breast screening.
‘A crucial part of this will be addressing the crisis facing the NHS breast cancer workforce, which was already overstretched and understaffed long before the pandemic. Worryingly the situation is set to get much worse, with nearly a quarter of breast consultant clinical radiologists forecast to retire within the next five years.’
Wes Streeting, shadow secretary of state for health and social care, said that after having cancer himself he knows that every second matters when it comes to cancer
Rose Gray, head of policy development for Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Despite it being an issue that affects us all, we aren’t seeing fast enough progress in cancer – and we’ve seen years of underinvestment.
‘The next Prime Minister needs to make cancer a priority and can demonstrate this by recommitting to an ambitious and fully funded plan for cancer. This must include improving cancer screening programmes, ensuring equal access for all, and crucially making sure we have the NHS specialists we need.’
Wes Streeting, shadow secretary of state for health and social care, said: ‘Having been through treatment for kidney cancer last year, I know that every second matters when it comes to cancer.
‘The Government claimed they were ‘declaring war on cancer’, but they’ve spent the past decade disarming our NHS. As a result, women are missing out on screening that can catch cancer early and save lives.’
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