Mental health inequalities in breast cancer detection

Posted by ap507 at Dec 01, 2014 04:00 PM |
Women with a mental illness are less likely to be screened for breast cancer, according to University psychiatrist

Women with a mental illness, including depression, anxiety and serious mental illnesses, are less likely to be screened for breast cancer, according to new research published in the BJPsych.

The research team, led by Dr Alex J Mitchell (pictured), consultant psychiatrist in the Department of Cancer Studies, reviewed 24 publications reporting breast cancer screening practices in women with mental illness (around 700,000), and five studies investigating screening for those in distress but who had not been diagnosed with a mental illness (nearly 21,500) and found that there were significantly reduced rates of mammography screening in women with mental illness, depression and severe mental illness such as schizophrenia. The effect was not present in women with distress alone, suggesting distress was not the explanation.

Dr Mitchell said: “We have previously shown that there are inequalities in medical care for people who happen to have a mental health diagnosis. This is partly explained by poorer attendance but also partly explained by willingness of staff to treat a patient’s medical condition at the same time as a mental health condition.

"In this study we found that mental ill health was linked with 45,000 missed screens which potentially could account for 90 avoidable deaths per annum in the UK alone. Clearly patients with mental illness should receive care that is at least comparable with care given to the general population. Every effort should be made to educate and support women with mental illness called for screening.”