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Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership are getting out to improve awareness about the symptoms of breast cancer and uptake of preventative breast screening – the most common cancer in Yorkshire.

The survival rates for stage one breast cancer (the earliest stage – the cancer is small and hasn’t spread anywhere else) in Bradford District and Craven are in the high 90s and it is the most successful of the screening programmes for health outcomes across the district.

However, recent data shows only 51% of women attended breast screening in Bradford District and Craven, a decrease of 5% compared to last year. The national standard for breast screening uptake is 70%.

New approaches locally include working with men in the South Asian community to improve their knowledge about breast cancer and screening and help them have life-saving conversations as a family. In addition, work is underway focused on addressing questions amongst the Black African community, who are more likely to present with stage four or ‘secondary’ cancer (when the cancer has spread from where it started to at least one other body organ).

The partnership hosted a successful wellbeing and cancer screening session for people with learning disabilities and their support networks last week (Monday 9 October) and are planning more events. Local people are also being invited to behind-the-scene tours of mobile breast screening units, helping them learn about breast screening and know what to expect – come along to Sainsbury’s car park, Keighley to get a tour between 12pm and 4pm on Saturday 21 October.

“One of the ways to check your breasts for signs and symptoms of breast cancer is to stand in front of the mirror with your clothes off and to raise your arms up and down, do this facing forward and sideways to see how your breasts are hanging. Get to know what is normal for you and if something is different always get it checked out by a healthcare professional at your GP practice,” explains Julie Hodgins, health promotion specialist at Pennine Breast Imaging at St Luke’s Hospital in Bradford.

Cath Hayes of Bradford was diagnosed at a breast screening appointment. “In 2013 there was a trial taking place in Bradford whereby women were being called for early breast screening. I was sent an appointment for a mammogram which showed an abnormality and I was recalled for a further test. The second mammogram confirmed the abnormality and I had an ultrasound and biopsy on the same day. The results of these further tests revealed a 6cm x 8cm mass in my right breast, within the ducts.

“Within 2 weeks I’d had a total mastectomy and lymph node removal operation at St. Lukes Hospital in Bradford. Luckily the lymph nodes were clear and I made a full recovery. I have had yearly mammograms since 2013, am still cancer free, fighting fit and living life to the full. If I had ignored the letter it could have been a very different story. I can’t stress enough the importance of screening and early detection, so if you get called for breast cancer screening, please, please attend the appointment…….it could save your life”.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, the portfolio holder for healthy people and places, said: “There is some great work happening locally between the NHS, Bradford Council, University of Bradford and voluntary and community sector organisations. We’re hopeful that our joint efforts will reach more people than ever and ultimately increase the number of women coming forward from different communities for a potentially life-saving screening appointment. It’s also important that people check their breasts and look for changes and check anything new or unusual with your GP, even if you’re not currently in the age range eligible for cancer screening.

“A lot of women think they can’t see anything or feel anything so question why they should go to a breast screening appointment. The likelihood is that everything will be okay, but it’s important to get checked so our NHS can help you as soon as possible if treatment is needed. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50 and the risk continues to increase with age, so I’m urging those between the ages of 50 and 71 to take up the offer of a breast screening appointment when invited.”

To find out more about breast screening please visit the NHS website