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Routine breast screening uptake continues to fall in England

Now at lowest rate in a decade, annual report shows

Caroline White

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The proportion of women eligible for routine breast screening in England who took up the offer fell yet again in 2016-17, show the latest figures from the national screening programme, published by NHS Digital.

The Breast Screening Programme England, 2016-17 report published today shows that coverage has remained largely static in the last three reporting years and remains above the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes’ minimum standard of 70 per cent in all but one of the seven reporting regions.

Coverage is defined as the percentage of women in the population who are eligible for screening at a particular point in time, who have had a test with a recorded result within the past three years.

Coverage of women aged 53-70 was 75.4% at 31 March 2017, compared with 75.5% at the same point in 2016, and a peak of 77.2% in 2011.

London reported the lowest coverage of 69.4%, while the East Midlands reported the highest at 79.1%.

The number of women aged 45 and over invited for screening rose by 3.7% to 2.96 million in 2016-17, from 2.85 million in 2015-16.

But uptake among 50-70 year olds fell in 2016-17 to 71.1%, down from 72.1% in 2015-16 and 73.6% in 2006-07. It is at its lowest rate in 10 years.

Uptake fell in all seven reporting regions in 2016-17 when compared with the previous year. In 2015-16, 72.1% of women had been adequately screened within six months of invitation.

Of all women with cancers detected in 2016-17, 41.5% (7635 women) had invasive but small cancers of less than 15mm in diameter. This compares with 41.2% (7543 women) in 2015-16.

The age profile of women with cancer detected by the screening programme shows that new cases of breast cancer increase with age.

Detection rates were lowest for women aged 50-54 (6.2 women with cancer detected per 1,000 women screened). The detection rate was highest amongst women over 70 years (14.6 women per 1,000 women screened).

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