Some cancer screenings on hold in Forth Valley due to coronavirus

The Scottish Government has ‘paused’ several health screening programmes, including those that are looking for signs of cancer, saying at the moment the risks outweigh the benefits.

By Kirsty Paterson
Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 1:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 1:17 pm

No additional patients will be invited for tests that include breast screening (mammograms), cervical screening (smear tests) and bowel screening (home test kits).However, people who have been screened recently or who have completed and returned home test kits will continue to be processed and will get their results.Forth Valley medical director Andrew Murray stressed that this did not mean that any treatment needed local patients was being put on hold.He said: “The screening programme is for people who are well and not showing any symptoms.“If anyone has any symptoms of cancer – if, for example, you find a lump on your breast – you should absolutely call your GP about it and don’t wait for the programme to resume.”The move means healthcare staff can be re-allocated to support other essential services, including COVID-19 laboratory testing and covering for colleagues who are unwell or self-isolating.As members of the public have already been choosing not to attend appointments, the pause also helps ensure people will not miss their screening altogether.Other tests that are being put on hold are abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening (ultrasound of abdomen) and diabetic retinopathy screening (images taken of the eye).However, pregnancy and newborn screening programmes, including tests offered during pregnancy and just after birth, will continue where logistically practical.Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood said: “While there are risks to individuals through delayed diagnosis of conditions that these screening programmes would have picked up, these risks need to be weighed up in the context of the pressures on the NHS in Scotland posed by Covid-19 and balanced against other difficult decisions we will need to make.”Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “I want members of the public to be assured we will restart screening programmes as soon as it is safe to do so following clinical advice. When this happens invitations will be re-issued and appointments will be rearranged.“In the meantime, it is absolutely vital for patients in between screening appointments or awaiting a rescheduled appointment to be aware of any symptoms or signs of the conditions screened for. Anyone having these symptoms should contact their GP practice.”

Breast cancer screening
Dr Andrew Murray, Medical Director NHS Forth Valley