'So important' - Cancer survivor's fear as 35,000 women shun screenings

Penny Carpenter of Great Yarmouth Borough Council Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Penny Carpenter of Great Yarmouth Borough Council Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

A breast cancer survivor is urging for further investigations into why thousands of women in Norfolk and Waveney have not taken up potentially life saving breast screenings. 

Penny Carpenter, a Norfolk county councillor, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, said if she had not attended the mammogram mobile unit in Great Yarmouth she would not have been able to spot the cancer in her chest wall that needed to be removed. 

She told the council's Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee on Thursday she worried women could be walking around with a "ticking time bomb" and asked how they could be encouraged to come forward. 

Women are invited for a breast screening every three years between the ages of 50 and 70, to help catch cancer early. 

Figures up to 2019/20 showed Norfolk and Waveney was above the national average of 70.1pc, though had seen steady declines over the last decade. 

In 2018, 35,000 women in the region missed a screening. 

Mrs Carpenter told Thursday's meeting: "I have to say personally if I did not turn up for my mine, I probably wouldn't be here today. 

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"How do you encourage women to come forward? Women are central to many families if they get cancer and unfortunately it takes their lives and those families, in my experience, absolutely fall apart.

"It is so important, it is one of the most important things a woman can do is to go for their screening." 

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Dr Jamie Scott, screening and immunisation manager for NHS England, said there has been an increase in the number of women self-referring. 

He said text message reminders were being put in place for cervical screening and in future, a similar system may be considered for bowel and breast screenings. 

After the meeting, Mrs Carpenter said she would support evening and weekend clinics as introduced by hospitals to tackle cancer waiting backlogs

She added: "I do not think we can rely completely on technology to encourage women to come along. We need strong advocates, people in the community to tell their stories."

Dr Melanie PascaleBIG C Norwich

Dr Melanie Pascale from Big C, Norfolk's cancer charity - Credit: Julian Claxton Photography

Dr Melanie Pascale, director of operations at Big C, backed the calls for women to get screened and its specialist teams could answer questions. 

She said: "Although feeling apprehensive when attending a medical examination is natural for many people, it is a relatively simple, painless procedure, which only takes a few minutes and ultimately it could save your life."

For more information call the Big C telephone support line on 0800 092 7640.

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