Scottish women 'must be encouraged to attend breast cancer screening'

In collaboration with the Press Association

Breast cancer awareness needs to be raised in Scotland as a matter of priority, Breakthrough Breast Cancer's new director of Scottish operations has said. In an interview with the Times, Audrey Birt, whose appointment was confirmed today (5th November), revealed she would be prioritising attempts to overcome lingering ignorance concerning breast cancer as part of an attempt to ensure more women are checked for signs of the disease. Ms Birt is particularly mindful of the fact that more people from wealthy areas are screened than in areas with a high proportion of people with an ethnic minority background.

This trend could be arrested, Ms Birt believes, by encouraging more women to attend breast checks. Although most women are able to check themselves for lumps, they remain unaware of the importance of screening, particularly in old age. "Eighty to 90 per cent of older women don't go for screening," Ms Birt told the newspaper. "The most worrying thing for me is that people tend to think that because they are no longer recalled, it's not important for them any more. While at 60 cervical cancer screening stops because the risk goes back to normal, with breast cancer the risk increases with age." Scotland's health secretary Nicola Sturgeon recently announced the details of the government's Better Cancer Care strategy, which will attempt to improve cancer care in the country by taking two x-rays of each breast during screening. It is hoped that by doing this fewer early tumours will go undetected. Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon pledged that all patients would receive cancer treatment within 31 days of diagnosis by 2011. Although Ms Birt is in full support of the Better Cancer Care plan, she insists that improvements to cancer care can still be made. Along with improved take-up of screening services, she would like to see greater use of digital mammograms.