A FORMER cancer patient has insisted women must attend breast screenings, after it emerged thousands have missed appointments in Southend.

In the Southend Clinical Commissioning Group area, only 64.3 per cent of the 23,641 women due a screening in the the last three years took up the offer.

This means 8,433 women are not up to date with their checks.

Ashley Dalton, former parliamentary candidate for Roch and Southend East, has urged women not to miss the opportunity for checks after she beat breast cancer in 2014.

She said: “I was too young for breast screening when I was diagnosed but I’d urge everyone entitled to NHS breast screening to take up the offer.

“Regularly checking your breasts and visiting the doctor if you notice a change is really important, but not all symptoms can be seen or felt.

“Breast screening is hugely beneficial when it comes to finding cancers early when treatment can be the most effective.

“I think some women don’t go because it can be embarrassing or they worry that it could be painful.

“It only takes a few minutes, staff are usually kind and supportive and any discomfort is usually short. It could save your life.”

Uptake in Southend increased slightly last year, from 63.8 per cent in 2017-18, despite a drop nationally.

However, it has fallen from a peak of 64.8 per cent in 2010-11.

Councillor Trevor Harp, Southend council cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “It can be a little bit daunting to receive an invitation to a medical screening but I believe it is essential to make that appointment.

“Figures in this report show that nationally for every 1,000 tests carried out, 8 will detect a case of breast cancer, and those people will have the chance to begin treatment as early as possible. Early detection can greatly increase survival rates.”

“Medical screening invitations are sent out because research has shown that particular age groups have a higher vulnerability to that specific condition and I would encourage all Southend residents to attend any medical screenings they are invited to.”

The breast screening programme uses a mammogram to detect tumours before they are large enough to feel.