13 March 2020

New data on the breast screening programme in Wales was published today (Thursday 12 March) by Public Health Wales in the Breast Test Wales Annual Report 2018-19.

The new figures show that breast screening uptake (the number of eligible women invited to screening who attend within six months of invitation) has fallen below the minimum standard of 70% for the second year in a row.

  • The percentage of women taking up their screening invitation within six months showed little change and remains below the standard with 69.1% in 2018-19 compared to 69.0% in 2017-18.
  • In 2018-19, more than 145,000 women aged 50-70 were invited for screening in Wales. This compares to 148,000 in 2017-18.
  • Uptake has seen a gradual decline over the last ten years, with the exception of financial years 2013 and 2014 where uptake was 71.9% and 72.1% respectively, from 75.6% in 2009.

Under Breast Test Wales, 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 their 71st birthday.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, the research and care charity, said: 

It’s extremely concerning that uptake of breast screening in Wales has been declining over the last decade and has now fallen below the national minimum target for the second consecutive year. With thousands of women missing out on the benefits of screening, we need to act now to reverse this worrying trend.

NHS breast screening remains critical to early diagnosis in Wales, ensuring that breast cancer is detected at an earlier, more treatable stage. So it is vital that we do all we can to support and enable more women in Wales to make breast screening a part of their lives.

We now urgently need a better understanding of the barriers to women’s attendance in Wales. It’s vital that Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and Breast Test Wales carry out a full review of the Welsh breast screening programme and provide clear recommendations to help improve attendance, including initiatives such as text message reminders.

While screening comes with some risks to be aware of, we’d encourage all women to attend their appointments when invited. Anyone with any questions or concerns about screening can call our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 for support and information. Our nurses are just at the end of the phone.