THOUSANDS more women have contacted their GP with breast cancer symptoms in Scotland following a hard-hitting television advertising campaign.

New figures show a 50% rise in the number of women going to their doctor between September and November last year – up from 13,900 in 2011 to 21,000.

Actress and comedian Elaine C Smith features in the commercial, which was the first in the UK to show real pictures of women's breasts affected by cancer.

Before Christmas it emerged the surge in patient numbers was putting breast cancer screening services under strain, and Robert Calderwood, chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said if the trend continued the health board would need more resources to cope with demand.

James Jopling, Scotland director for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, welcomed the rise in women seeking advice about breast cancer symptoms.

He said: "We know early detection can save lives, as the earlier a diagnosis is made the better the chance of successful treatment."

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Scotland with nearly 4500 women diagnosed every year, however, survival rates lag behind many other European countries.

The advert is part of a drive to increase the proportion of cancers detected early in Scotland in a bid to improve this picture.

On average, 95.8% of patients meet the target time frame, but for urological cancers the figure is 92%, for head and neck cancers it is nearly 93%, for lung it is 94.2 and for patients urgently referred from the colorectal screening programme, the figure is 91.8%.