Mental health means inequalities in breast cancer screening, study shows About the university

Brendon Stubbs

Women with a mental illness, including depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, are less likely to be screened for breast cancer, according to research carried out by the universities of Greenwich and Leicester.

Brendon Stubbs, a PhD student at Greenwich, and a mental health researcher, was the senior author in the research, supporting the work of Dr Alex Mitchell, consultant psychiatrist from the University of Leicester, who led the study.

Together they reviewed 24 publications reporting breast cancer screening practices in more than 700,000 women with mental illness, as well as five studies investigating screening for those in distress but who had not been diagnosed with a mental illness (nearly 21,500 women).

The authors found that there were significantly reduced rates of mammography screening in women with mental illness, with the greatest deficit seen in women with serious conditions such as schizophrenia. The effect was not present in women with distress alone, suggesting distress was not the explanation.

Brendon says: ““We have, for the first time, demonstrated that disparities in the provision of medical care for people with mental illness extend to routine preventive medical procedures that are recommended across the general population. Mammography screening is an important strategy to help prevent mortality from breast cancer and can save lives.

“Given the fact that women with mental illness appear more likely to die from breast cancer, the deficits in care we observed are clearly of concern. More may have to be done to support women with a mental health diagnosis to receive breast cancer screening.”

Dr Mitchell adds: “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.”

The study was first published in the British Journal of Psychiatry on 1 December.

Brendon is completing a PhD within the university’s Faculty of Education & Health, investigating the impact of pain in falls in older adults.

To find out more about the university’s Faculty of Education & Health:, email or call 020 8331 9000.

Story by Public Relations

Picture: Brendon Stubbs.