Thanks to funding from NHS England, The Primrose Foundation and the West Devon and East Cornwall Breast Screening Programme, a signwritten bus will be making its way around Plymouth reminding people of the importance of breast screening.
Each year over 25,000 people attend their breast screening appointments, with 400-600 breast cancers being diagnosed and treated. However, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of people attending their breast screening appointments both nationally and locally.
It is hoped that this new eye-catching double-decker bus will transport the important message of breast screening across the city and help to promote the Primrose Breast Care Unit at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHP) while encouraging people who are eligible to attend their appointments.
Dr Karen Paisley, Director of Breast Screening at UHP, said: “This is a great initiative to try and improve uptake for breast screening. We know that the impact of screening in saving lives from breast cancer is greater the more women that attend for their screening mammogram.
“Screening saves about 1 life from breast cancer for every 200 women screened, as cancers are diagnosed and treated earlier than they would have been without screening. Unfortunately, there has been a drop in uptake recently and overall uptake in our local programme was only 72.5% in 2021/22, a drop of nearly 8% in the last 10 years (78.5% in 2010/11) and is as low as 54% in some areas of Plymouth.
“While this compares favourably with national uptake (62.3% in 2021/22, a drop of 15% since 2010/11), we are working hard locally to explore the reasons for non-attendance and to try and address these, ensure equity of access and improve uptake and, consequently, the mortality benefit of breast screening.”
The bus has also been partly funded for by money raised by a group of nine local women who are part of a group called 'Dare 2'. Each member had received a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment at the Primrose Breast Care Centre at UHP and wanted to do something to raise awareness about the importance of attending breast screening appointments when invited. Through a charity dance last autumn, the group raised almost £12,000 which went towards the bus campaign.
The Plymouth Citybus owned double-decker features the slogan, 'Breast screening saves lives – Always attend your free screening appointment’ as well as pink, yellow and grey colours which represent The Primrose Foundation, a charity which helps fund and support the Primrose Breast Care Unit. It will be on the roads of Plymouth for 12 months from April 2023 and will be used on routes across the city, primarily targeting areas where breast screening uptake is known to be particularly low.
How to check your breasts
As well as attending breast screenings when invited, it is important that all women regularly check their breasts and discuss any changes with their doctors immediately.
The NHS Breast Screening Programme has produced a 5-point plan for being breast aware:
- know what's normal for you
- look at your breasts and feel them
- know what changes to look for
- report any changes to a GP without delay
- attend routine screening if you're aged 50 to 70
Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, and up to your collarbone. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit.
You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side and also with them raised.