The proportion of women aged 50-70 taking up routine breast screening invitations fell to 71.1 per cent in 2016-17 – the lowest rate in the last decade – according to new figures published today by NHS Digital.

Wednesday 31 January 2018      Health information
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The Breast Screening Programme England, 2016-17 report published today by NHS Digital shows that:

  • 2.59 million women aged 50-70 were invited for breast screening in England during 2016-17. This compares with 2.48 million in 2015-16 and 2.07 million in 2006-07.
  • Of these, 1.84 million women were screened by the programme in 2016-17. This compares with 1.79 million in 2015-16 and 1.52 million in 2006-07.
  • According to the report, uptake by women aged 50-70 fell in all seven reporting regions in 2016-17 when compared with the previous year. Uptake was above the national minimum standard of 70 per cent in all regions except the North West and London, where it was 68.8 per cent and 64.0 per cent respectively.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

"It’s extremely concerning to see breast screening uptake fall to the lowest rate in a decade, particularly following the progress suggested by last year’s slight increase. We urgently need to understand better the reasons for this decline and much more needs to be done to ensure that women are able to attend screening.

"We encourage all women to attend screening where possible. Comprehensive evidence has shown that screening prevents deaths from breast cancer – mammograms are able to detect cancers before they can be seen or felt, and early detection of the disease offers the best chance of survival.

"That so many women are missing out on the benefits of screening is deeply worrying. There could be a number of reasons why women are not attending, including difficulties in managing the appointments or worries about being diagnosed with breast cancer, and the barriers to access now need to be fully investigated across the country.

“Breast screening has small risks as well as benefits and it is absolutely crucial that women have access to all the information they need to make an informed personal choice about attending."

Under the NHS Breast Screening Programme, eligible women will usually receive their first routine invitation for breast cancer screening between the ages of 50 and 53 and will normally be invited every three years until they are 70.

Of all women with cancers detected through screening in 2016-17, 41.5 per cent (7,600 women) had invasive but small cancers which are less than 15mm in diameter and are usually too small to detect by hand. This compares with 41.2 per cent (7,500 women) in 2015-16.

For more information read the NHS Digital report.