We in BreastCheck invite all women for screening at regular intervals between the ages of 50 and 69. However, breast screening was impacted by COVID-19 during 2020 and 2021 and appointments have been delayed by up to a year. Some women who were aged 69 and due a screening test in 2020 or 2021 may have turned 70 before we could invite them for their final screen. We are now writing to these women to invite them for this screen.
How did this happen?
- We invite women for screening between the ages of 50 and 69. We do not invite any woman who is over the age of 70 for screening.
- The impact of COVID-19 has meant screening appointments have been delayed by approximately one year. As a result women may now wait three instead of two years for their test until we recover from the impact of COVID-19 on services.
- Women aged 69 in 2020 or 2021 who were impacted by this delay may have turned 70 before we could invite them.
- Our system does not invite any woman for screening who is outside the screening age range.
What we are doing to invite women for their final screen
During the height of the pandemic we worked hard to prioritise women who were most at risk. We used our screening resources firstly to help women in the symptomatic services who had known symptoms of cancer. We then worked to invite everyone who was in the assessment phase of screening, and those due a routine screening test. As part of this work, we are now inviting those women over 70 who may have missed out on their final screen, on an area by area basis.
We know that not all women will feel the need to come for a final screen. If a woman has come for screening regularly between the ages of 50 and 69 she has already increased her chance of early detection of breast cancer. However, if a woman who turned 70 in 2020 and 2021 believes she has missed her final appointment she can wait for her invitation, or ring her local unit to discuss scheduling an appointment. Contact information for local units is available here.
We are offering appointments to women over 70 who are still due their final screen in line with our capacity to screen, and the location of our mobile and static units. We hope to have offered an appointment to all women who are eligible by the end of 2022.
For other women who turned 70 in 2020 and 2021 but have never come for screening, we would urge you to contact us to discuss being invited for a screening test.
This is because breast screening helps find cancer at an early stage. If it’s found early, it’s easier to treat and there’s a better chance of recovery.
Women over 70 are still at risk of breast cancer, but we do not routinely invite these women for breast screening. This is because scientific evidence does not show that continuing to screen women over 70 has more benefits than harms.
Being breast aware
BreastCheck is a screening service for well women within the population age range (50-69 years) and is not for women with symptoms. If a woman has any concerns or symptoms concerning their breasts, we ask them not to wait for screening, and to contact their GP for the appropriate advice. These messages have been the subject of our continuing advertising campaigns in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
It is important that every woman is breast aware. This means knowing what is normal for you so that if any unusual change occurs, you will recognise it. The sooner you notice a change the better because if cancer is found early, treatment is more likely to be successful. It is important to get into the habit of looking at and feeling their breasts at least on a monthly basis. More information on techniques for checking your breasts is available on www.breastcheck.ie
Our new leaflet on how to reduce your own risk of breast cancer – with advice on prevention and early detection, is available here.