Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Monday, 5 October 2009 15:39 UK

Sisters act against breast cancer


Five sisters dedicate a day each year to getting screened for breast cancer. Marie-Louise Connolly reports.

By Marie-Louise Connolly
BBC NI health correspondent

In the past three years in Northern Ireland, the lives of about 70 women may have been saved, due to them getting on board a very special type of bus.

It's Action Cancer's mobile support unit, nicknamed the Big Bus, which travels to more than 200 locations every year, reaching out to women concerned about Breast cancer.

On Monday's Health Focus, I get on board this unique service and meet five sisters who fix a day each year to get checked out for breast cancer.

They live in different parts of Northern Ireland but every October they meet in Belfast, kicking the day off with a coffee.

Then, they make their way to the Big Bus where, in turn, they get a mammogram. Their ages range from 46 - 51 and they see this day as one that could save their lives.

One of the sisters, Ann Pearson, said: "It's so important that women get checked.

"We make this a very special day, a day out, one to look forward to as sisters."

Action Cancer's Big Bus offers a range of services
Action Cancer's Big Bus offers a range of services

I also meet a woman who heard about the Big Bus through a flyer in her local chemist.

She has recently been screened. Her mother had breast cancer and she considers herself at high risk.

Approximately 1,000 women in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

While incidences of the disease are increasing, survival rates are also increasing. Early detection, through breast screening, saves lives.

As well as the city locations, the bus drives to rural areas where those working in Action Cancer believe women are often isolated.

At the moment Action Cancer is keen to target women aged over 70 and women between 40 and 49. These groups are currently not being targeted by the NHS.

Services provided on the Big Bus include digital breast screening, health promotion and health checks for men and women.

A new support scheme, called the Listening Ear Service, and complementary therapies will be offered to cancer patients, their carers and families onboard the unit.

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