NHS blames Kylie for cancer target failures
The Australian pop star Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2005, prompting an increased awareness of the disease, particularly among younger women. She is in remission after chemotherapy.
Now NHS chiefs in the Highlands and Argyll say the rising number of women coming forward worried they might have breast cancer has led to soaring referrals to specialists.
They said the increased demand was part of the reason waiting times were rising for some women.
Although many boards, including Greater Glasgow, Forth Valley and Ayrshire and Arran, are treating 100 per cent of breast-cancer patients within two months of referral, the latest cancer waiting-time figures show a wide variation in performance. In Highland, only 47.4 per cent of patients started cancer treatment within two months of being referred - the worst performance in Scotland.
One patient had to wait 132 days to start treatment.
Several other boards failed to meet the 95 per cent target, including Lothian at 85.2 and Lanarkshire at 92.1.
An NHS Highland board meeting heard that, while in Scotland as a whole there had been a 20 per cent increase in breast-cancer referrals in the past year, referrals there had soared by 40 per cent in 12 months.
Elaine Mead, NHS Highland's chief operating officer, admitted the board's cancer waiting-time statistics were "very poor" but she said work was going on to improve the situation.
Christine McIntosh, the board's cancer network manager, said: "The Kylie effect is thought to be at least partly behind the increase in referrals seen across the country.
"Across Scotland women are becoming more aware of the need to examine themselves."
She went on: "Our patient journey lists are scrutinised weekly and delays removed wherever possible.
"We are streamlining the referral procedures, fast-tracking cancer patients through diagnostics and extending theatre times to allow this to happen."
Last month Andy Kerr, the health minister, said improvements to cancer waiting times were not happening fast enough.
"Over the year there has been good progress, with performance on all cancers up eight per cent, but there is still more work to do," he said.
Last year NHS Quality Improvement Scotland carried out an audit of breast-screening services. Yesterday, a spokesman said celebrities who had gone public on their fight with breast cancer had encouraged more women in Scotland to come forward for screening. "High-profile cases such as those involving Kylie Minogue and Anastasia, and coverage of the condition on EastEnders and Coronation Street, have a huge impact on awareness," he said.
Dr Sarah Rawlings, head of policy and information at the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, called for greater efforts to reduce waiting times, whatever their cause.
"Women have told [us] that waiting for breast-cancer diagnosis or treatment can be distressing and we hope measures have been put in place to reduce these waiting times," she said.
"Women of all ages tell us that Kylie's diagnosis has made them more aware of breast cancer."
Lorraine Dallas, from Breast Cancer Care Scotland, said: "The 'Kylie effect' has undoubtedly made more women breast-aware - knowing what changes to look for and to report anything unusual to their GP.
"This is important as early detection can lead to more simple and effective treatment."
THE pop star Kylie Minogue had been about to start a busy schedule of concerts and festival appearances around the world when she was given the devastating news in May 2005 that she had breast cancer.
She had been due to start her Showgirl tour in Australia before going on to perform in Asia and to headline at the Glastonbury festival.
But the concerts were immediately postponed as Minogue, now 38, underwent surgery in Melbourne followed by a course of chemotherapy in Paris. As part of her recovery, she reportedly used visualisation techniques, including imagining her return to the stage and to her fans.
After spending many months out of the spotlight in recovery, Minogue revealed she was ready to make her comeback, to the delight of fans around the world. Tickets for her UK gigs sold out within six minutes of going on sale.
Since starting her battle against cancer, Minogue has become an inspiration to thousands of women also fighting the disease. She has also had to deal with a split from former boyfriend Olivier Martinez.