McArthur calls for urgent re-opening of self-referral breast cancer screening


Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) called on the First Minister to re-open self-referral services for breast cancer screening to women over 70. 

Speaking during First Minister's Questions, Mr McArthur raised concerns that some breast cancers may go "undetected" over a "prolonged period" unless the opportunity for women over 70 to self-refer for screening is reinstated. 

Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) called on the First Minister to re-open self-referral services for breast cancer screening to women over 70. 

Speaking during First Minister's Questions, Mr McArthur raised concerns that some breast cancers may go "undetected" over a "prolonged period" unless the opportunity for women over 70 to self-refer for screening is reinstated. 

The Scottish Breast Screening Programme invites women aged between 50 and 70 years old for screening every three years. In rural and island communities, this is carried out using mobile screening units. Self-referral was paused due to the pandemic although some services started to reopen last August, with priority given to working through the backlog of those with appointments.

Orkney's MSP raised the potential impact of the pause on self-referrals telling the First Minister, “this is giving rise to concerns among those affected in all parts of the country, but particularly in places like Orkney that rely on mobile screening units visiting once every three years."

Mr McArthur quoted one constituent who had been in touch with him recently, warning, "for many of us this will mean a wait of another three years, making six years in total without receiving a mammogram.” 

Responding to Mr McArthur's question, the First Minister admitted cancer screening services needed to be restored, commenting "we need to make sure the service for everybody gets back to normal as quickly as possible. But it has to be done safely."

Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:

"The initial decision to pause self-referral screenings may have been justified given pressures on the service due to the pandemic, but we need to see all cancer screenings scaled up as quickly as possible. 

"Self referrals by women aged over 70 have been common in the past and the current pause on this activity has caused understandable concern amongst those affected, including many in Orkney. That is particularly the case for those with a family history of breast cancer.

"In places like Orkney that rely on mobile screening units visiting every three years there is an added concern. Missing an appointment or being unable to self-referral could result in a lengthy delay between screenings. 

"It was disappointing that the First Minister was unable to offer more of a reassurance about when such services will be back to normal, though I share her hope that this happens in the near future.

"Meantime, I will continue to raise this with the Health Secretary, stressing the specific needs of those in rural and island communities whose access to screening facilities are more limited."


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