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Breast cancer: proportion of women screened after their first invitation falls to decade low

The proportion of women aged 50-70 screened for breast cancer after their first invitation fell to 63.3 per cent in 2014-15, down from 65.8 per cent last year and 70.1 per cent in 2004-5.

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.

2.11 million women aged 45 and over were screened in 2014-15, compared to 2.08 million women in 2013-14, an increase of 1.3 per cent.

The figures are contained in Breast Screening Programme, England, 2014-15 published today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The report also shows:

Coverage as at 31 March 2015

Coverage of the programme is assessed as the proportion of eligible 53 to 70-year-old women who have been screened adequately within the last three years.

  • Coverage of women aged 53 to 70 was 75.4 per cent at 31 March 2015, compared with 75.9 per cent at the same point in 2014, down from a peak of 77.2 per cent in 2011.
  • This is the fourth year in a row that coverage has fallen.
  • Nationally, coverage is still above the NHS Cancer Screening Programme’s minimum standard of 70 per cent.
  • Coverage was above the national minimum standard of 70 per cent in all regions except London, where it was 68.3 per cent. The East Midlands reported the highest coverage at 79.6 per cent.

Invitations for screening in 2014-15

The statistics on invitations cover a wider age range than the coverage figures, reflecting a randomised controlled trial that the majority of breast screening units (67 out of 80) are currently participating in to extend invitations for screening to women aged 47 to 49 and 71 to 73.

  • The number of women aged 45 and over invited for screening increased by 2.3 per cent to 2.80 million, compared to 2.74 million in 2013-14
  • The number of women aged 71-74 invited to screening increased by 13.3 per cent to 85,800 in 2014-15, from 75,700 in 2013-14. This was due to the trial growing.

Cancers detected in 2014-15

The aim of breast screening is to reduce deaths from breast cancer by finding cancers too small to be felt by hand, classed as cancers of fewer than 15mm in diameter.

  • Of the 18,000 women who had cancers detected under the programme in 2014-15, 40.5 per cent (7,300 women) had invasive cancers too small to detect by hand. This compares with 39.9 per cent (7,200 women) in 2013-14.
  • The age profile of women with cancer detected by the screening programme shows the incidence of breast cancer increasing with age. Detection rates were lowest for women aged 50 to 54 and 55 to 59 (6.7 per 1,000 women screened) and highest for women over 70 (14.8 per 1,000 women screened).

Responsible Statistician Pritpal Rayat said: “All of us know someone who has been affected by breast cancer, be it a friend, an aunt, a sister, a mother. This report sheds light on the important programme that can detect this disease early.”

“These statistics show the falling proportion of women at the younger end of the programme’s target group who are being screened after they get their first invitation. I hope the report can help women, health professionals, campaigners and others to understand how the programme is working and areas for future focus.”

You can view the full report here.

Source: HSCIC

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