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Mental illness linked to high rate of cancer

SAVING LIVES: Matilda MacAttram calls for routine cancer screening in mental health institutions

HEALTH CAMPAIGN groups Cancer Black Care (CBC) and Black Mental Health (BMH) UK have joined forces to tackle growing concerns about the high rate of cancer among black people with mental health conditions.

The organisations recently launched a 70-page report which showed that targeted cancer screening for mental health patients is essential for saving lives.

The 12-month study, which included a detailed audit of services across Greater London, revealed that despite cancer being the second biggest killer of people with mental health conditions, screening and targeted support was lacking.

Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK and the report’s lead author, said: “Ensuring that people from communities who are over represented in psychiatric settings are accessing timely and culturally appropriate cancer screening and care is important. Our findings highlight the important partnership role health providers need to broker with third sector agencies in order to fulfil their obligations within the Health and Social Care Act.”

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Dr Frank Chinegwundoh MBE, chairman of Cancer Black Care and co-author of the report, pointed out that the fact that black people are disproportionately represented in mental health settings, they are more likely to die from cancer.

He said: “‘We know that screening for various cancers saves lives, but those people with severe mental illness often miss out on screening  and this needs to be addressed  to ensure that they are  offered the same opportunities in a manner that makes it possible for  them to take advantage of them.”

He added: “I am hoping that the launch of this report will assist the responsible bodies for screening to liaise with mental health services to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be screened and not miss out.” 

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