Up to 20% of women not attending Donegal Breast Check unit added to deal with screening backlog

Late cancellations or no-shows don't allow time for the slot to be given to another woman

Breast Check Donegal Town

The temporary Breast Check unit in Donegal Town PHOTO Siobhan McGowan

As many as one in five women are not attending their Breast Check appointments in Donegal Town.

This temporary second clinic was added for a limited period to help clear the backlog that arose from the programme being suspended due to Covid-19.

A spokesperson for Breast Check said: “Ireland typically offers women a screening appointment every two years. However, women who were due routine screening have had their invitations delayed because of Covid-19. 

“We are advising women who are due to be invited for screening that it will take another year to complete the current two-year screening round. For a period of time this means we will be more in line with England, where women are offered screening every three years.

“Our message to women is: If you were due to be screened in 2020, we are aiming to invite you in 2021. If you were due to be screened in 2021, we will now aim to invite you in 2022.”

The service operators are concerned about the number of cancellations and no-shows in the Donegal Town clinic. Short notice cancellations mean that there is not time to offer the appointment to someone else.

“On average 15-20% of screening participants invited to their appointment do not attend their BreastCheck invitation,” the spokesperson said. 

“We encourage all women to let us know if they can’t attend their appointment, so we can rearrange their appointment and offer that slot to another woman in their community.”

Capacity to screen remains lower than in pre-Covid times, and every appointment could potentially save someone’s life. It is well documented that early detection makes a huge difference to the prognosis in a breast cancer patient. 

Betty Holmes of Donegal Action for Cancer Care (DACC) said: “DACC are calling on women who are invited for their Breast Check appointment if it is Donegal Town this time please attend Donegal Town even if it is not their preferred location. 

“Attending the unit to which you are invited helps all women in Donegal be screened in a more timely manner.”

Ms Holmes said that securing a second unit in Donegal at this time with the large waiting lists was very important.

“Women should attend the Donegal Town Unit if invited at this time,” she said.

“The Breast Check unit will be situated in Donegal town for 35 days, increased from the initial 22-day period. Screening will finish in Donegal Town on October 15. Please attend if you are invited.”

Breast Check is a screening service for women who appear to be well - with no symptoms of breast cancer - within the population age range. 

The Breast Check Spokesperson said: “If a woman has symptoms or concerns about her breasts, she should not attend screening. Instead, she should contact her GP who will give her the appropriate advice.”

Symptoms of breast cancer 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 armpit
- 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.

“It is important that every woman is breast aware,” said the Breast Check spokesperson.

“This means knowing what is normal for her so that if any unusual change occurs, she will recognise it. The sooner she notices a change, the better. If cancer is found early, treatment is more likely to be successful.

“We recommend that women get into the habit of looking at and feeling her breasts at least on a monthly basis.

“If a person has any concerns or symptoms concerning their breasts, we strongly encourage her to contact her GP who will give them the appropriate advice on follow-up care.”

People are reminded that men can also get breast cancer, and should take any change to the breast or nipple area very seriously.

More information on techniques for checking breasts and on the screening programme is available on
Women over the age of 50 can check the register to ensure that they are included in the screening programme. Breast Check can also be contacted on or Freephone 1800 45 45 55.

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