SOAP storylines about cancer seem to have no influence on attitudes to the disease in Worcestershire.

Although it was reported this week breast cancer referrals at Watford General Hospital had increased by a third following a storyline in Eastenders which saw character Carol Jackson develop the disease, the same has not been reflected in Worcestershire.

In January 215 women with suspected breast cancer were referred to Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust - which runs radiotherapy services in the county - fluctuating between 198 and 241 in the first seven months of the year, with 217 seen in July.

Superintendent radiographer at the trust Debbie Fox said: “We have not seen an increase in requests for self-referral appointments through the breast screening programme in recent months nor have we seen an increase in the uptake rates for routine screening invitations for women aged between 50 and 70.

"The number of patients being referred from their GPs has increased slightly since last year, but has remained at a similar rate for the past few months.

“The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is likely to be to treated.

"Being breast aware simply means getting to know how your breasts normally look and feel at different times of the month.

"If you notice a change that isn't normal for you, talk it over with your GP and ask for a referral to the breast clinic.”

Although NHS-mandated targets state at least 96 per cent of cancer patients have their first treatment within 31 days of their diagnosis, the trust missed this target in May and June, with almost eight per cent waiting longer than a month.

This been put this down to a range of factors including an increase in the amount of patients aged 80 and over, who may have a number of other conditions complicating their treatment, patients choosing to delay treatment during school breaks and Bank Holidays as well as a lack of beds.

Anyone concerned they may be at risk of breast cancer should speak to their GP in the first instance.