Women in some of the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland are being urged to prioritise their own health to ensure faster diagnosis of, and treatment for, breast cancer.
Figures show that while eight out of ten women from more advantaged backgrounds accept their invitations to attend breast screening, the figure falls to as low as four in ten among certain disadvantaged groups.
To address this, the Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA) is delivering a comprehensive face to face, and online, breast screening awareness programme encouraging women to be more cancer aware and to attend vital screening appointments.
The WRDA’s awareness programme, funded by the Public Health Agency, was developed to help tackle inequalities in the uptake of breast cancer screening.
One in 10 women in Northern Ireland will get breast cancer during their lifetime. There are around 1,450 cases diagnosed every year with more than 300 women dying of the disease.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Deirdre Quinn, the WRDA’s Training Development Co-ordinator appealed to women in Northern Ireland to access its free services, which are available online and through community workshops.
Ms Quinn said: “Women in more disadvantaged communities often feel they don’t have time to look after themselves. They are too busy struggling to make ends meet or looking after their families. Our message to them is – prioritise yourself. Don’t ignore your screening invitation. Also remember to do a regular breast check.”
The WRDA has restarted face to face breast cancer awareness sessions, due to huge demand from community groups, amid fears there are a lot of undiagnosed cases. A total of one million women across the UK have missed vital breast screening because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms Quinn added: “Our community workshops are free and tailored to reach all communities. We now have signing for the deaf community and translators available for those who don’t speak English. There is also a webinar available for individuals.”
A short online video produced by the WRDA could also help save the lives of women across Northern Ireland. The WRDA video, entitled ‘In the Zone’ gives a simple, step-by-step guide to women on how to examine their breasts and look for any changes.
It advises carrying out monthly checks and to make sure to check the entire area including under the arm, collarbone, nipple, and the breast itself and to immediately contact their GP if there are any irregularities.
The WRDA is currently taking bookings for group sessions delivered in the community and on Zoom. The In the Zone video and three webinars are also available on the WRDA website: https://wrda.net/breast-cervical-and-bowel-screening-awareness-programme/