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Cancer charity hails milestone on women attending free scans

By Victoria O'Hara

A record-breaking number of women are going to a leading charity for potentially life-saving breast cancer screening in Northern Ireland, new figures have revealed.

Action Cancer screened 10,000 people between 2014 and 2015 for deadly cancer cells - breaking previous attendance records.

The 10,000th woman to be screened was 40-year-old Angela Maxwell from Dunmurry who said it was an ad on a social media site that led to her making the medical appointment. She said: "The mammogram was really easy and quick, only taking 10 minutes. I would like to encourage other women to book a breast screening."

The total was 1,700 more women compared to the previous year. The charity has heralded it as a "milestone" in the battle against the disease that claims the lives of 300 people in Northern Ireland every year. It is the only charity in the UK and Ireland to offer free breast screening for women aged 40 to 49 and over 70 who fall outside the NHS screening age range. That is currently between 50 and 70 years old.

Approximately 1,240 women are diagnosed with it in Northern Ireland every year but for every 1,000 women screened by Action Cancer, an average of five cancers are detected which means at least 50 cases were spotted.

Angela will receive her screening results in the next few weeks. But there have been many women whose lives have been saved because the screening facility is available.

Mary Allen (50) from Ballymena made an appointment on the Action Cancer's Big Bus in 2012 when she was 47. A week later she received a letter stating that something had been picked up in the screening and was to be referred to a breast clinic. She had another mammogram, and biopsies were taken. Mary then underwent a mastectomy, but said the Big Bus appointment saved her life.

"I may have lost one of my breasts to cancer, but I am thankful that I haven't lost my life to cancer, I am alive to tell the tale. I'm convinced my decision to book an appointment on the Big Bus saved mine," she said.

Consultant radiographer Joanna Currie said the more women who were screened, the more lives could be saved.

"We are delighted to reach this milestone, screening 1,704 more women than last year," she said. "The more women we screen the more lives we can save. With approximately five cancers detected per 1,000 screenings we will have picked up 50 cancers in the last year."


Breast screening is an X-ray of the breast. It's carried out in women who have no symptoms with the aim to reduce deaths. The free screening is available at Action Cancer House in Belfast and on the charity's Big Bus, which travels throughout Northern Ireland. About 1,240 women are diagnosed every year. For more details visit or call 028 9080 3344.

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