OPINION: It's plain stupidity for anyone to turn down free health checks

A consultant analysing a mammogram

A consultant analysing a mammogram. Rachel says people who turn down free tests because they don't want the discomfort are crazy - Credit: PA

If you’re offered free life-saving health checks or protections, why would you play Russian Roulette with your life and not bother because it’s a bit uncomfortable for a few minutes?

The first words at reception of woman behind me in the line for breast screening this week were as shocking as much as shameful.

They happened to coincide too with the attitude of the tens of thousands of care workers who would prefer to lose their jobs than get their Covid vaccinations.

Sometimes it’s clear that people take the perks of living in the UK for granted and have no clue how fortunate they are to have bountiful health checks, treatments, and preventions on tap for no charge.

The woman in question was 56 and had gone through childbirth, the most agonising pain known to humankind, but had missed her last breast screening appointment three years ago because her first had been “a horrible experience that had left her black and blue.”

She had been “so traumatised’ by her first mammogram that she had simply refused to go again when the next emails and letters were sent.

“I’m terrified and so so nervous,” she told the booking-in nurse.

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Let’s get some perspective. It’s a mammogram, not skydiving, white-water rafting or swimming with sharks. It’s a simple, swift, and efficient health check that could save her life.

A mammogram involves standing topless by an x-ray machine for four photographs.

There’s a bit of uncomfortable manipulation to get the best and fullest view, and bending into tricky poses for a few seconds with your boobs clamped by the machine isn’t at the top of enjoyable ways to spend five minutes, but terror and nerves?

It was the fuss of a toddler faced with a hairdresser wielding scissors for the first time. Illogical and over the top.

Let’s remember the 12,000 UK women who die every year from breast cancer, the most common cancer in the country. Caught early, it’s treatable.

Skipping the “trauma” of an x-ray could have resulted in a mastectomy, radiology, and chemotherapy. But the value of those few minutes of “trauma” was lost on her.

However, credit to her for as facing up to her fear after six years, although a lot can go wrong in a body in that time. I hope she was lucky.

This year has been my lucky year, with multiple free health screenings resulting in a full body health check, totalling about £1,000 worth of tests for reassurance that everything is in full working order.

As a cancer survivor – 10 years cancer free next month and counting – I’ll pass up no test invitation. I know what treatment and real fear feels like.

“Eeeurgh,” a friend said when a bowel cancer screening kit popped through his letter box. “I’m not doing that. Do you know what you have to do?” he said, wincing. He’s happy to pick up his dog’s poo, changed his children’s nappies and cleaned up ‘accidents but refuses point blank to have anything to do with his own poo to check for cancer.

What he might have to go through if he doesn’t do it would be a lot worse – and far more costly to the health service. Just do it.

This week, care workers who refused Covid vaccines were crying because they lost their jobs on the no-jab-no-job deadline.

Louise Akester, 36, of Hull, lost her job in a care home where she had worked for three years.

It was “unfair” she said to lose her job. She couldn’t understand what the Government is doing,

She'd had Covid and “I trust my body to fight it. I would rather trust my natural immunity and then get the vaccine once it passed its trials in 2023.”

And I would rather make a wish and all my dreams come true too, but that’s not reality.

No one claims vaccinations stop Covid or passing it on, but the effects are less and it’s about living in society and looking after each other.

I spent a day’s holiday this week queuing for my booster this week at Castle Quarter, Norwich, where there was a sense of doing something proactive in a pandemic and unity (apart from the grumblers who gave the volunteers, shout out to all of them, hell for having to wait.)

It was ironic that we were jabbed in the food hall surrounded by the closed junk food outlets that refuseniks are happy to munch through but refuse a vaccine because they “don’t know what’s in it.”

Major criticism

Rarely does a political radio interview stop me in my tracks, least of all when it’s a former Conservative prime minister.

But Nick Robinson’s Saturday morning interview with Sir John Major was a corker. The current cabinet’s behaviour was “very unconservative” and some actions “politically corrupt.”

We get the government we deserve, what the country voted for.

This one is damaging the UK’s reputation at home and overseas by breaking the law and breaking treaties, he said.

“Parliament cannot be the play thing of any prime minister or indeed any government.”

So, if people voted Conservative, and the government is behaving in a “very unconservative” manner, what are they?

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