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Last Updated: Friday, 16 April, 2004, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Women missing out on cancer tests
Mammograms can detect cancerous tissue in the breast
A shortage of specialists is leading to thousands of older women missing out on screening tests for breast cancer.

Women aged 64 to 70 in Glasgow, Grampian and Tayside, are not getting routine mammograms because there are not enough radiographers.

The Scottish Executive has raised the upper age limit for mammogram screening to 70 and women can self-refer.

But these areas say they cannot extend the programme without affecting the existing service for women aged 50-64.

'Age discrimination'

The executive's plan to increase the age threshold to 70 should have come into force on 1 April this year.

It would have meant at least an extra 37,000 women being checked for breast cancer.

However, the service has not been extended in some areas due to a shortage of radiographers and radiologists.

It is estimated that about 30,000 women in Glasgow alone should be screened under the extension over the next three years.

Malcolm Chisholm
In those parts of Scotland where it has not yet been fully rolled out all women over 65 can self-refer
Malcolm Chisholm
Health minister
A spokesman for Help the Aged in Scotland called the situation "age discrimination".

Lorraine Dallas, from charity Breast Cancer Care, said: "We know that women, as they get older, are at increased risk of breast cancer.

"The screening service provides an absolutely invaluable method of early detection, so it's extremely worrying that within particular areas of Scotland people are not able to access that service as the government has committed to."

The Scottish Executive said it was addressing the issue.

Professionals on career breaks are being encouraged to return to work, while current staff are being retrained to assess mammograms.

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm said the move to raise the age threshold would produce results.

Mr Chisholm said: "It is an extension of the screening service that has never existed before, the majority of Scotland has rolled it out fully.

"In those parts of Scotland where it has not yet been fully rolled out all women over 65 can self-refer."

BBC Scotland's Fiona Stalker
"There are simply not enough radiographers"

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