October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the NHS is urging women in the North East and Yorkshire to attend their scheduled breast screening appointments. All women between the ages of 50 and their 71st birthday are invited for a complimentary NHS breast screening, which plays a crucial role in detecting cancers at an earlier, more treatable stage.

In the 2021-2022 period, the NHS breast screening programme identified cancers in 20,152 women across England that might otherwise have been diagnosed and treated later. Within the same timeframe, 3,127 cancers were detected in women aged 45 and above in the North East, Yorkshire, and the Humber region.

Dr Jonathan Slade, Medical Director (System Improvement and Professional Standards), NHS North East and Yorkshire, said; “Breast screening saves lives as cancers can be diagnosed and treated earlier than they would have been without screening – often before you can even see or feel any changes to your breasts yourself.”

Dr Slade, who is a GP in the North East, said: “It’s understandable some women are anxious about attending their breast screening appointment and your mammographer will do everything she can to make the experience as comfortable as possible for you.

“If you have been invited for breast screening but missed or did not book an appointment you can still contact your local NHS breast screening service to arrange one, even if you were invited weeks, months or years ago. You can talk to them before your appointment about anything you need to make it easier for you to attend.”

Breast screening services are more accessible than ever. As well as hospitals, mobile screening vans are available in convenient community locations such as supermarket car parks.

Women of all ages should be ‘breast aware’, Dr Slade added. “Get to know how your breasts normally look, you will be more likely to spot any changes that might be signs of breast cancer. If you are concerned do not hesitate to contact your GP practice. It is important that you continue to look at and check your breasts regularly, even if you have just had a mammogram.”ue to monitor and examine your breasts regularly, even after a mammogram.”

Over 2 million women in England receive a mammogram annually, preventing an estimated 1,300 breast cancer-related deaths in the UK each year. In the North East and Yorkshire, approximately 370,000 women undergo mammograms yearly. Roughly 4 out of every 100 women are called back for further tests after screening, and are offered subsequent care and treatment. Among these 4 women, 1 will be diagnosed with cancer.

“Every breast screening is potentially saving a life so remember to book and attend your appointment when invited,” Dr Slade added. “Put your health at the top of your to-do list and book your appointment as soon as you can. Let us know if you can’t make it, so we can rearrange.”