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Charity facing cash squeeze as breast cancer screening costs spiral due to virus

Charity Action Cancer is facing hugely increased costs due to the Covid pandemic. It is the only charity in the UK and Ireland to offer free breast screening to asymptomatic women aged 40-49 and over 70, who fall outside the NHS screening age range of 50-70.

However, due to the coronavirus, it now costs £120 per test, compared to the £80 previously.

Gareth Kirk, Chief Executive, said: “This Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), we welcome the fact that other breast cancer charities join with us to raise awareness of the need for women to be breast aware and attend for breast screening.

“The reality is that the only breast cancer screening service available for local women and provided by a charity is from Action Cancer.

“With the need for PPE, extended appointment times and enhanced cleaning of our clinics, our radiographers are going the extra mile to deliver this service.

“A breast screening at Action Cancer is free to our clients but the cost to the charity has increased from £80 per woman to £120.

“With our normal calendar of fundraising events and activities being cancelled due to restrictions, we are facing a massive funding challenge going forward.

“Since recommencing our services, we have experienced unprecedented demand. It is very clear that our services are needed more than ever before.

“Unfortunately our considerably reduced fundraising and retail income prohibits us from meeting that demand.

“We, however, remain committed as ever to continuing with delivering our life saving breast screening service to as many women as is possible.”

After having been forced to close its doors in March due to the pandemic, Action Cancer recommenced its breast cancer screening programme in mid-August and over the past six weeks has screened 850 women.

Action Cancer would have normally screened 3,500 women during the period in which it had to close.

Appointments for free screening are now available at Action Cancer House in Belfast and on board the charity’s Big Bus, supported by SuperValu and Centra, which travels throughout Northern Ireland bringing this life saving service to the community.

Consultant Radiographer Joanna Currie said: “Our state-of-the-art 3D Digital Breast Tomosynthesis technology can detect cancer in its early stages when treatment can be more successful and also reduces the number of women called for further investigation.

“For every 1,000 women screened by Action Cancer, an average of six or seven cancers are detected.

“The vast majority of women who come for screening will receive clear results and will be given peace of mind.”

Sonya Cassidy, 49, has used the service. She said: “I received clear results two weeks after my mammogram with Action Cancer, the reassurance was fantastic.

“The staff are so friendly and professional, I’d highly recommend the service.”

The BCAM campaign has been supported by Gordons Chemists over the past 13 years, helping to spread the key message to female audiences that ‘early detection saves lives’.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Action Cancer is partnering up with Northern Ireland based online car insurance provider its4women.co.uk

The online car insurance provider has pledged that for every £1 raised by the public through “Breast Friends” events it would donate £1 to a total value of £90,000 over a three year period.

Kerry Beckett, Marketing Manager, its4women.co.uk, said: “Our ethos is one of empowerment, to help everyone realise their potential.

“We believe that involves encouraging your loved ones to feel inspired to sign up for health checks, so the Breast Friends campaign is one we are deeply committed to.”

For your fundraising pack get in touch with Leigh Osborne on 028 9080 3347 or emaillosborne@actioncancer.org

You can view more about the campaign by watching the Breast Friends video on Action Cancer’s YouTube . This video features Brand Ambassador Donna McGavigan and her best friend, Frances Jack, from Strabane.

Women aged 40-49 and 70 plus can book their free breast screening appointment either online at www.actioncancer.org or by calling 028 9080 3344.

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Check out the vital signs

Breast cancer can have several symptoms, but the first noticeable symptom is usually a lump or area of thickened breast tissue.

Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but it’s always best to have them checked by a doctor.

You should also see a GP if you notice any of these symptoms:

a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts;

discharge from either of your nipples, which may be streaked with blood;

a lump or swelling in either of your armpits;

dimpling on the skin of your breasts;

a rash on or around your nipple.

Breast pain is not usually a symptom of breast cancer.

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