Far fewer women from most deprived areas attending breast screening in Scotland

Fewer than three fifths of women from the most deprived areas of Scotland attend for breast cancer screening, compared to nearly four fifths of women in the most affluent communities, new figures showed.

The latest data from Publish Health Scotland revealed that a total of 561,125 women aged between 50 and 70 attended for a routine breast screen appointment between 2017/18 and 2019/20.

Over the period, that equates to almost three quarters (72.2 per cent) of women having the checks, which can help detect breast cancer.

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But the figures showed women in the most deprived areas were less likely to come forward for the check-ups when invited.

A patient undergoes as digital breast screening session. Picture: Jane Barlow

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According to the data, 59.9 per cent of women in the poorest areas attended a screening appointment, compared to 79.6 per cent of women in the least deprived communities.

Public Health Scotland noted that this pattern, where people in the most deprived areas are less likely to attend, was “also seen in other screening programmes”.

The number of women coming forward for screening in total over the three years between 2017/19 and 2019/20 was “similar” to the previous three years – with the levels for both these exceeding the 70 per cent minimum acceptable standard.

However, two health boards failed to achieve this, with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire screening 67.2 per cent and 69.7 per cent of eligible women respectively.

In the 20 years since the Scottish breast screening programme was established, with more than 4.3 million checks on women performed over that period, which in turn have detected more than 34,200 cases of breast cancer.

There has been full national coverage of the Scottish Breast screening programme from 1991 and since then more than 4.3 million examinations have been carried out with more than 34,200 breast cancers diagnosed.

Currently, all women aged between 50 and 70 are invited for a routine breast screening examination every three years.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is encouraging that the latest statistics show overall uptake exceeded the minimum 70 per cent target for the programme.

“However, we want to go further to ensure that the target is met in all areas of Scotland, and to tackle the inequalities that result in lower uptake in more deprived areas.”


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