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Radiographers have key roles in NHS screening programmes


Sue Webb

President, Society and College of Radiotherapists

Screening programmes identify medical conditions and diseases as early as possible, often before people have symptoms or know there may be something wrong.

Two of the most widely used – breast and abdominal aortic aneurysm screening – save lives by providing evidence to health and medical professionals that something is wrong, how serious it is, and to help make decisions about the best next course of action.

Mammographers, or breast specialist radiographers, carry out two million examinations a year as part of the NHS Breast Screening Programme, primarily on women aged 50 to 70 years. Many of the mammograms are checked by reporting radiographers, who will find signs of cancer in eight out of a thousand women who have been screened.

It is estimated that the abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening programme has cut early deaths by half among men aged 65 years and above. It is assistant practitioner radiographers who carry out the scans that measure the abdominal aorta, a major artery. The procedure gives early warning of a possible aneurysm, which could rupture and cause life-threatening bleeding.

Monitoring the nation’s health

Nine out of ten people who go to hospital as an in- or out-patient will see a diagnostic radiographer, who will produce high quality and accurate images to diagnose injury, abnormalities or disease. Before treatment can take place, a medical practitioner needs to have the best possible idea of what is happening inside the patient’s body to understand what it is that may be wrong.

The radiographer has an increasing range of diagnostic imaging options available including X-rays, CT, MRI, and nuclear medicine, as well as ultrasound. They are also increasingly reporting on clinical images.

First in the fight against cancer

Therapeutic radiographers deliver radiotherapy services to four out of ten people who have been diagnosed with cancer. They plan and deliver highly accurate doses of radiation to the site of the tumour, while minimising the amount of exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. They also have a key role in caring and supporting patients during their treatment.

To find out more about radiographers, who they are and what they do, go to www.sor.org

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