BreastCheck screening appointments delayed ‘by up to a year’

Service paused for months at beginning of pandemic in 2020 and again during 2021

Breast cancer Symptoms can include a lump in either breast. File photograph: Getty

Breast cancer Symptoms can include a lump in either breast. File photograph: Getty

 

Appointments in BreastCheck’s current screening round are delayed by up to a year due to the impact of the service being paused during Covid-19.

BreastCheck was paused for several months at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, and again between January and March 2021, in order to “protect participants and staff by complying with social distancing guidelines”.

The service has said the pause in screening meant that healthy women were waiting longer for their screening appointments.

A spokeswoman said BreastCheck continued to “provide support to the symptomatic breast cancer service” which “meant that urgent patients who had symptoms were seen quicker”.

“We don’t keep waiting lists but have restarted [screening] women . . . since recommencing screening in October 2020,” said the spokeswoman. “Appointments in our current screening round, where we normally invite women for screening once every two years, are delayed by up to a year.”

This means that if a woman was due to be screened in 2020, BreastCheck aimed to invite her in 2021; if she was due to be screened in 2021, BreastCheck will now aim to invite her this year.

The screening service is for women who do not have symptoms and who are between the age range of 50-69 years.

“We are prioritising women who are due screening longest and women who are new to screening. During this time, Ireland will be more in line with England, which screens women every three years. However, we aim to return to screening women every two years as soon as possible,” said the spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, BreastCheck has funded a new text message appointment system to “maximise uptake”. It has a 15 to 20 per cent non-attendance rate in some areas.

Staff recruitment remains a “challenge” in radiography and radiology and BreastCheck is “recruiting”.

If a person has any concerns or symptoms concerning their breasts, they should not attend screening and should instead contact their GP who will give them the appropriate advice.

Breast cancer symptoms can include:

  • A lump in either breast;
  • Discharge from either of your nipples (which may be streaked with blood);
  • A lump or swelling in either of your armpits;
  • A change in the size or shape of one or both breasts;
  • Dimpling on the skin of your breasts;
  • A rash on or around your nipple;
  • A change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast.