Almost 1 million people may have missed breast cancer screenings due to COVID-19

October 9, 2020

Breast Cancer Now (BCN), a charity that focuses on breast cancer research and care, has estimated that almost one million people in the UK have missed vital breast screening appointments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These important appointments that are part of the screening programme were postponed in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to help free up NHS services and focus resources on the pandemic.

Breast screenings aim to find breast cancer early. When breast cancer is detected at an earlier stage treatment is more successful and there is a better chance of recovery. At a breast screening appointment a mammogram (x-ray) is taken of the patients breasts and sent to be analysed for any abnormalities.

It is estimated that 986,000 people have missed their mammograms at their appointments with 838,000 in England, 78,000 in Scotland, 48,000 in Wales and 23,000 in Northern Ireland. Breast Cancer Now estimates that of those that have missed their breast screening appointments 8,600 are now potentially live with undetected breast cancer.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now, stated “Governments and NHS health bodies across the UK must set out how the influx in demand for imaging and diagnostics will be met.”

The breast screening programme has now resumed but with social distancing measures in place but is now dealing with a large backlog of appointments from during the lockdown and BCN are worried about the delays to future appointments as a result.

In Solihull, a respite centre where breast cancer patients received therapies such as massages, beauty treatments and counselling has been permanently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The charity that runs the centre, Breast Cancer Haven, has received a 50% reduction in voluntary funding due to the pandemic. This meant that the charity had to make the difficult decision to close their centre in Olton.

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