SERIOUS concern has been raised about the drop in the number of women taking up mammogram screenings in Donegal over the last three years.
Provisional figures obtained by the Donegal News reveal a worrying disparity in the number of women invited to take up mammogram screening compared to the number who do.
From January to December, 2020, some 1,941 women were invited by BreastCheck but only 1,333 women took up screening – a loss of 608 women.
The biggest difference was seen in January to December 2021, when 7,885 women were invited but just 4,815 women availed of screening the screening – a loss of 3,070.
Some 2,195 women were invited between January to May this year, with 1,705 women availing of the screening. A total of 490 women did not.
In all, that is 4,168 screenings not availed of. Donegal Action for Cancer Care (DACC) has expressed grave concerns about the impact that Covid-19 has had on all medical services including BreastCheck.
DACC Chairperson Betty Holmes told the Donegal News that while the Covid-19 pandemic may have impacted on some women’s ability to attend appointments, the figures are concerning nonetheless.
“We note with concern the serious reduction in the number of women invited for their BreastCheck Screening and those who have attended.
This is very worrying. We are aware that there was a serious reduction in BreastCheck screening at times during the Covid pandemic due to staffing issues. Covid may also have impacted on some women’s ability to attend their appointments.”
Ms Holmes said BreastCheck, when possible, provided an extra unit in Donegal to help.
She said DACC will continue to work with BreastCheck to see how best to move forward with this serious reduction in uptake.
“DACC welcomes the initiatives that BreastCheck are taking, among which is a large-scale communications campaign to inform eligible women that they are a year behind with screening.
“DACC would ask all women who receive an invitation from BreastCheck for their free Mammogram to attend please. Remember the life you save could be your own.”
Anyone who can’t attend their appointment should contact BreastCheck and reschedule.
“This is very important also. Any woman who has any concerns regarding their breasts please contact your GP in the first instance.”
A HSE spokesperson said the number of women invited for screening in 2020 and since has been reduced because of the impact of Covid-19.
Screening is to match that delivered in England for a short time.
“Appointments in our current screening round, where we normally invite women for screening once every two years, are delayed by a year. This means that for a time, Ireland is more in line with England, which screens women every three years. We aim to return to screening women every two years as soon as possible. It is dependent on the situation with Covid-19, the associated restrictions which are ongoing, and their impact on staffing and scheduling.”
Women who are due screening for the longest amount of time are being prioritised. “We are also focusing on increasing uptake in groups of women least likely to come for screening, and therefore at higher risk of cancer.”
The spokesperson said BreastCheck has met the many challenges posed by Covid-19 while working to increase capacity and uptake.
Focus on increasing uptake includes, funding a text messaging system to support infection control and improve uptake so that more women may avail of breast screening as well as recruiting radiography and radiology staff.
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