WOMEN in the south west suffer the worst waiting times for breast cancer screening in Britain, a shock report has revealed.

The region is ‘consistently falling short of a two-week wait target’, said a report published today by MPs, who discovered that more than 15 per cent of patients in this area are waiting over 14 days to see a specialist.

The news is doubly worrying because more than one in five mammography posts in the south west lie vacant, leaving women to face what the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer has described as a ‘demographic time bomb’.

The landmark report, ‘A Mixed Picture: An Inquiry into Geographical Inequalities and Breast Cancer,’ uncovers the true extent of the postcode lottery in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and care across England. It shows that, depending on where they live, some women are more than twice as likely to die from breast cancer under the age of 75.

The report revealed that women in the south west were waiting, on average, three times longer than those in the north east for their mammogram. However, despite a slight decline (2.4 per cent) in screening attendance over the past ten years, the south west was the third best-performing region in England for the number of women attending breast screening in 2016-17. Nearly 74 per cent of women attended within six months of invitation during that time, surpassing the national target of 70 per cent.

The All Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer is co-chaired by south west MP Thangam Debbonaire. “Our report worryingly shows major inequalities in the diagnosis, treatment and care of breast cancer across the country," she said. "But the workforce shortages and missed waiting-time targets we are seeing in the South West are of real concern, and these must be urgently addressed to ensure all patients receive the best possible care."

Women between the ages of 50 and 70 are invited for routine mammograms every three years as part of the NHS Breast Screening Programme. A major independent review in 2012 showed that NHS breast screening prevents 1,300 deaths from breast cancer each year, with around a third of all breast cancers in the UK – roughly 16,000 cases a year – diagnosed through the programme.