Breast Cancer screening to resume slowly from today

Patients will receive letters to reschedule appointments.

By Democrat reporter

The Breast Screening Programme which was paused in March because of coronavirus (COVID-19) is to resume safely and carefully from 3 August.

Anyone who was invited for a breast screening appointment before the pause, who was unable to attend for any reason or had an appointment cancelled will receive a letter in the coming weeks.

There will be no change to the screening test itself, however additional measures have been introduced to allow breast screening to take place in a safe environment.

Staff will wear necessary personal protective equipment and appointments will be staggered to ensure waiting areas are quieter, allowing staff and patients to adhere to physical distancing.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Pausing the adult national screening programmes was one of a series of difficult decisions we have had to make in responding to the impact of COVID-19. I am delighted breast cancer screening is resuming and I would urge everyone to attend their appointment, as screening can find early signs of cancer.

“The continued efforts we are making to limit the spread of the virus have allowed us to restart the national breast screening programme in line with expert clinical advice and the recommendations of the Scottish Screening Committee, as part of the planned safe and incremental remobilisation of NHS Scotland.

“The safety of patients and staff will continue to be our priority as all of the national screening programmes restart and expand. I want to reassure you that we are taking these precautions so that we can safely offer the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”

Marion O’Neil, Head of External Affairs (Devolved Nations) at Cancer Research UK, said: “It is great news that breast cancer screening services in Scotland are returning. Although breast cancer screening has both benefits and harms, we know cancer screening programmes saves lives.

“There may be some changes to what happens at your appointment because of COVID-19 and your results may be delayed, so it’s more important than ever that you read the information provided. Ask at your appointment how long it might take and who to contact if you haven’t heard in that time.

“It is important to remember that screening is for healthy people with no symptoms. If you notice any unusual changes to your body that don’t go away, talk to your doctor.”

Meanwhile, more information on the national screening programme is available on NHS Inform.

  • Breast cancer screening invitations will slowly start to resume from 13 July however we would ask for people to be patient as it will take some time to fully restore the service.
  • Anyone who was invited for cervical screening before the pause in March and was yet to make an appointment or had it cancelled was able to make an appointment from 29 June.
  • Cervical screening appointment invitations and reminders will also start to be posted in the week beginning 13 July, with invitations sent first to those who receive more frequent (non-routine) appointments. Routine screening will restart once NHS Scotland has caught up with non-routine appointments affected by the pause.
  • Higher risk participants on the Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) and Diabetic Retinopathy Screening (DRS) programmes began to receive appointments from 6 July.
  • NHS Boards are resuming bowel screening colonoscopies and appointments will be clinically prioritised.

Updates on public health advice for COVID-19 can be found on NHS Inform, and a free helpline has been set up for those who do not have symptoms but are looking for general health advice: 0800 028 2816.

If patients have any concerns they should contact 999 for emergencies or 111 for any urgent requests.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should now contact the NHS to arrange to be tested – either online at NHS Inform, or by calling 0800 028 2816.

Meanwhile, responding to the news that the breast cancer screening programme is to restart, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “The resumption of breast cancer screening is extremely good news.  It is incredibly important that we start up all screening as swiftly and safely as possible. Those who receive a distressing cancer diagnosis need to get treated quickly and receive the full package of support.

“The legacy of this pandemic means the NHS is going to be playing catch up on screenings and important appointments for months or years. The Scottish Government must ensure the resources necessary to clear the backlog are available.”

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