REGIONAL health chiefs are urging women to attend breast screening appointments when invited.

All women aged from 50 up to their 71st birthday receive invitations as part of the free NHS screening programme.

Dr Jonathan Slade, regional NHS medical director (system improvement and professional standards), says: "Breast screening saves lives, as cancers can be diagnosed and treated earlier than they would have been otherwise.

"Yet NHS figures show that less than half of women attend their first screening appointment when invited.

"It’s understandable that some are anxious about attending, and your mammographer will do everything she can to make the experience as comfortable as possible for you.

"If you have been invited for breast screening but missed or did not book an appointment, you can still contact your local NHS breast screening service to arrange one. You can talk to them before your appointment about anything you need to make it easier."

Dr Slade also encourages women to be 'breast aware'.

He adds: "Get to know how your breasts normally look – you will be more likely to spot any changes that might be signs of breast cancer. If you are concerned, do not hesitate to contact your GP practice."