A DROMORE woman has spoken of her frustration after being turned away from a mobile breast screening unit because she was not aged 50 years or older.
The 46-year-old woman, who does not wish to be named, could now have to wait up to a year to be screened, or face paying over £1,000 for a private appointment.
“I was referred to the unit outside Omagh Library after visiting my doctor about concerns for my health,” she told the Ulster Herald.
“All I wanted and needed was the reassurance of knowing whether my concerns were justified or not. But to be then told that I couldn’t be screened was just so cruel and unbelievable.
“It has now left me facing a wait of up to a year to be screened. That wait could make a critical difference if something is found to be wrong when I eventually get the appointment.
“The health service is in a terrible state when you experience something like this. The whole thing has left me frustrated and extremely angry.”
West Tyrone Sinn Féin councillor, Glenn Campbell said he was shocked to have been told the details of the woman’s plight.
“This woman was understandably very upset to be refused access to this service.
“She has had concerns now for three months and wanted to access the service to put her mind at ease,” he said.
“It is totally unacceptable that she could have to wait for nine to 12 months, but to be then turned away from the mobile unit beggars belief.
“I will be seeking clarity on why staff at these units are advised that they cannot admit women under 50 years of age.
“I think it is unreasonable that women under 50 who have reasons to be concerned, as in this case, are being turned away.”
A spokesperson for the Western Health and Social Care Trust said the Breast Screening service offers mammography to women with no symptoms every three years within the 50-70 years age group.
“Any woman concerned about their breast health, at any age, should in the first instance contact their GP, to ensure that they are seen promptly according to their clinical symptoms. The Western Breast Screening Unit offers training on breast screening to all GP practices in the Western Trust area,” they said.
“Women between 50 and 70 are invited automatically once every three years when their GP practice is due for screening. Women over 70 can request screening once every three years by ringing the screening unit for an appointment.
“GPs can refer women with symptoms or signs of breast disease to a breast assessment centre (not the mobile screening unit), where a clinical breast examination, radiological examination (mammography and ultrasound) and pathological examination can be carried out to investigate fully any abnormalities in the breast.
“Having a breast screening mammogram is not the same as having a clinical examination and a diagnostic mammogram at a breast assessment centre.
“The screening programme (mobile screening unit) does not operate on a walk in basis, but by routine invitation.”
The Trust says it is committed to patients being seen and treated as promptly as possible.