Thousands of West Suffolk women are ignoring breast screening invitations, figures reveal
Thousands of women in west Suffolk missed their last screening for breast cancer, according to NHS figures.
Women are invited for a breast screening every three years between the ages of 50 and 70, but 'troubling' figures show the proportion of women accepting the invitation is declining.
Only 76.8 per cent of the 35,294 women in the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (WSCCG) area due a screening in the three years to the end of March took up the offer, meaning 8,180 women are not up to date with their checks.
In west Suffolk, the uptake rate has fallen every year since 2013/14, when it stood at 78.4 per cent.
Dr Ed Garratt, chief officer of NHS WSCCG, said: "I'm concerned that the rate of uptake for breast cancer screenings among 50 to 70-year-old women continues to fall across west Suffolk.
"About one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime and the likelihood of getting it increases with age.
"It's really important that women in that age range take the opportunity to get screened as the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed the more likely the treatment will be successful and the better their chances of recovery.
"Women are also less likely to need a mastectomy or chemotherapy if breast cancer is detected at an early stage."
The data measures how many eligible women were checked at least once in the three year period, meaning some women could be years overdue.
Across England, the proportion of women who attended their last check was 72 per cent.
Of those who were sent an invitation in the 12 months to March, just 70.5 per cent had attended within six months of their invitation, according to NHS Digital.
This is the lowest level since the current screening programme began in 2007.
The UK National Screening Committee says the minimum acceptable level of coverage is 70 per cent, but the NHS is expected to achieve 80 per cent.
Almost a third of the 260 CCGs in England failed to meet the minimum target, while only one managed to pass the 80 per cent benchmark.
The breast screening programme uses an X-ray test called a mammogram to detect tumours before they are large enough to feel.
Dr Anne Mackie, Public Health England director of screening, said it was 'concerning' uptake had fallen, particularly among younger women invited for their first test.