Breast cancer screening

Why collaboration is crucial to drive breast cancer screening rates

Every year there are around 55, 900 people diagnosed with breast cancer, which equates to around 153 people receiving a diagnosis a day.[i]

Breast cancer screening remains a crucial measure to ensure all women can be diagnosed as early and accurately as possible. With data showing that the highest number of women ever were screened last year, yet nearly four in 10 did not take up the offer of a screening,[ii] – it is clear more needs to be done to drive screening rates.

Tackling inequalities in breast cancer screening

“To meet screening targets, collaboration between industry, healthcare professionals, women and charities is key” says Tim Simpson, General Manager of Hologic UK & Ireland. “This collaboration must focus on tackling health inequalities and the barriers we know that many women face in accessing screening.”

“While data from our Hologic Global Women’s Health Index shows that cancer testing amongst women has improved, our additional research found that women from ethnic minorities (non-white women) reported lower attendance for breast cancer screening (11% vs 25%).”[iii],[iv]

“To tackle these inequalities, we must utilise the strength of charities who hold vital insights into women’s experiences, to better understand how we make breast cancer screening accessible for all.”

Prevent Breast Cancer is striving to do just that. “1 in 10 breast cancers are diagnosed late,[v] and we are committed to not only predicting but also preventing the disease says Nikki Barraclough the charity’s Chief Executive Officer.

“It is concerning to see such disparities in breast cancer screening attendance – especially when we know the disease does not discriminate and can affect anyone.”

Initiatives to drive breast cancer screening rates

The charity, based in Manchester, where screening rates are below the national average,[vi] run initiatives to promote the importance of breast cancer screening. Such as partnering with Hologic for the Project Health Equality campaign in 2021, engaging with hundreds of women to raise awareness of breast cancer and importance of attending their screening.

“We know for many women finding time to attend their appointment is a major barrier, as they juggle multiple responsibilities - so we bring the message to women direct. We run multiple initiatives and we are currently in the planning stages to hit the roads again on our BooBee bus tour to spread the importance of being breast cancer aware, visiting areas in Manchester with the lowest uptake of screening.

“As part of this we will be partnering with other organisations to ensure our message reaches all communities and proactively sharing information with different cultural and ethnic groups. We want to empower women to know what’s normal for them, and ensure all women are diagnosed as early as possible” says Nikki.

“Being time poor is not the only barrier for women attending screenings. We also know it’s vital that health information is accessible for all and translated into multiple languages” says Tim. “And we need to see large scale public health campaigns on the importance of screening that depict all women – so everyone can see themselves reflected in this important messaging.”

The importance of data & research

“You cannot improve what you don’t measure, so as we collaborate to drive change, we must continue to collect vital data on breast cancer screening, to help us pinpoint how we best support women across the country” says Tim.

Alongside the need for better data, research remains crucial. “We are proud to prioritise research, and recently helped fund a National Ethnicity and Breast Cancer Working Group to better understand important research questions on ethnicity and breast cancer” says Nikki.

“We certainly hope that the existence of quality data and research on women’s health experiences together with collaboration, will help drive pace and progress for the women that we support and help identify where urgent work is needed to reach all women, from all backgrounds, and all ethnicities.”

To find out more about the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, click here.

To find out more about the Prevent Breast Cancer’s previous Boobee bus click here.

Image credit: iStock

[i] Prevent Breast Cancer [Internet] What is Breast Cancer [cited 2023 August 30] Available from: https://preventbreastcancer.org.uk/about-breast-cancer/what-is-breast-cancer/

[ii] NHS England [Internet] Women urged to take up NHS breast screening invites [cited 2023 August 30] Available from: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2023/02/women-urged-to-take-up-nhs-breast-screening-invites/

[iii] Hologic. Hologic Global Women’s Health Index. 2021

[iv] OnePoll. Women’s Health Index. 2022

[v] Prevent Breast Cancer [Internet] About us [cited 2023 August 30] Available from: https://preventbreastcancer.org.uk/who-we-are/about-us/

[vi] NHS England [Internet] NHS Breast Screening Programme Statistics – interactive report for annual data [cited 2023 August 31] Available from: https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiYTFmMjVjYWEtN2MwZS00NWRmLWE0YzAtMmIxNzYxMjdmNWM4IiwidCI6IjUwZjYwNzFmLWJiZmUtNDAxYS04ODAzLTY3Mzc0OGU2MjllMiIsImMiOjh9

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NHE May/June 2024

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