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OBJECTIVES: Mental illness is associated with physical illness and mortality from a variety of causes including cancer. There is little information on screening attendance among the mentally ill population. An audit was conducted of a breast screening service in inner London to determine uptake rates in women with mental illness. DESIGN: Cross sectional data linkage study of the local screening register and patients of the local psychiatric units. Screening uptake rates in all patients, those with a history of multiple detention in hospital, and those with psychosis were compared with the local reference population. SETTING: Women in three inner London boroughs. PARTICIPANTS: Screening records for 933 psychiatric patients and 44 195 women without mental health problems aged 50 to 64 years. MAIN RESULTS: Overall, psychiatric patients were as likely as the reference group to attend breast screening. Patients with a history of multiple detention were significantly less likely to attend (OR = 0.40, 0.29 to 0.55; p<0.001), as were patients with a diagnosis of psychosis (OR = 0.33, 0.18 to 0.61; p<0.01). Increasing age, a history of detention in hospital, and social deprivation remained independent predictors for non-attendance. CONCLUSION: Women with severe mental health problems may be less likely to attend national screening programmes such as breast screening, and action should be taken to overcome the barriers to attendance.

Original publication




Journal article


J Epidemiol Community Health

Publication Date





600 - 605


Breast Neoplasms, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Humans, London, Mass Screening, Mental Disorders, Middle Aged, Patient Acceptance of Health Care