Vandals target NHS breast cancer vans

Repeated vandalism of NHS breast screening vans which operate across Norfolk is disrupting the lifesaving service provided to women in the county.

The Breast Screening service, run from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, operates three mobile units which screen women over the age of 50 across much of the county. The Norwich-based Breast Screening team have seen attacks on the vans rise markedly over the past two years. The last incident took place on the weekend of the 17th/18th November in Long Stratton.

Attacks on the breast screening mobile units have included damage to electrical cabling points, fireworks placed in an electrical unit, broken windows caused by stones and air rifles, stolen signage, damage to the steps that made them unusable, graffiti, and the steps to one unit were heavily greased. Vans have also been daubed in oil, grease, tar and mud.

The damage caused has meant the vans have not been able to provide the usual service whilst repairs are made. The attacks have been concentrated in the South Norfolk area including Long Stratton, Harleston, Attleborough, Diss and some damage has also been caused in Hoveton, North Norfolk.

Breast imaging deputy superintendent radiographer Yvonne Pointer said: “We provide a very important local service for women and these types of attacks have become much more common over the past couple of years. Our mobile units move around the county and they are often in one location for weeks at a time so it's not practical to bring them back to Norwich every day. We are appalled that this kind of mindless vandalism is being targeted at an NHS cancer screening service.”

Breast screening is a method of detecting breast cancer at a very early stage. The first step involves an x-ray of each breast – a mammogram. The mammogram can detect small changes in breast tissue which may indicate cancers which are too small to be felt either by the woman herself or by a doctor.

The NHS Breast Screening Programme provides free breast screening every three years for all women in the UK aged 50 and over. Around one-and-a-half million women are screened in the UK each year. Women aged between 50 and 70 are now routinely invited.

Monday 3rd of December 2007 04:00:33 PM