Breast screening falls to the lowest level in a decade

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The number of women taking up breast screening has fallen to the lowest level in a decade, official new figures reveal.

Just 71.1 per cent of women in England aged 50 to 70 took up invitations for routine screening in 2016/17 – down 1 per cent on the previous year.

It is the lowest in 10 years – in 2007, 73.6 per cent of women attended, according to NHS Digital data.

Charities have been left ‘extremely concerned’ at the statistics and have pushed for the worrying trend to be urgently reversed.

The number of women attending their routine screening, offered on the NHS, has been on the decline in recent years.

Just 71.1 per cent of women in England aged 50 to 70 took up invitations for routine screening in 2016/17 - down 1 per cent on the previous year

Just 71.1 per cent of women in England aged 50 to 70 took up invitations for routine screening in 2016/17 – down 1 per cent on the previous year

Around one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.

Screening aims to find cancer when it is too small to see or feel and is performed with a mammogram X-ray.

While there are some risks associated with this type of screening, it is routinely offered to all women aged 50 to 70 every three years.

Commenting on the new figures, 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. 

‘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.’

Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: ‘It’s worrying to see screening uptake in England at its lowest level in ten years. 

‘Our concern is women may not be empowered to get the support and information they need to make a decision that’s right for them.

PERCENTAGE UPTAKE OF NHS BREAST SCREENING INVITATIONS FOR WOMEN AGED BETWEEN 50 AND 70
Reporting region 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
England 73.6 73.2 73.6 73.2 73.4 73.1 72.2 72.1 71.3 72.1 71.1
North East 77.5 75.9 76.2 77.2 75.7 76.8 76.2 74.9 74.7 75.4 73.9
Yorkshire and the Humber 77.3 74.5 75.0 75.0 74.1 73.7 72.7 71.5 70.9 72.4 72.1
North West 73.0 72.3 73.2 73.0 72.0 71.5 70.0 69.3 69.9 70.1 68.8
East Midlands 77.6 78.6 78.4 77.8 78.6 77.1 76.1 78.6 75.9 75.9 75.2
West Midlands 75.0 74.3 74.0 73.4 74.3 74.4 72.1 73.0 72.0 72.1 71.2
East of England 75.9 76.8 76.5 76.0 76.5 75.1 74.4 74.6 72.3 73.5 73.3
London 60.3 60.6 60.6 61.5 63.6 63.1 63.3 62.9 62.6 64.9 64.0
South 75.6 75.0 75.8 75.1 75.1 74.9 74.3 74.5 73.5 73.8 72.8
South East 75.7 74.6 75.3 74.9 74.3 74.3 73.5 73.7 73.1 73.2 72.2
South West 75.5 75.6 76.5 75.3 76.4 75.7 75.6 75.8 74.1 74.8 73.7

‘Mammograms remain the most effective tool at our disposal for detecting breast cancer at the earliest possible stage. 

‘However, it’s crucial to be aware of what’s normal for you and get anything unusual checked out – remember it’s not just a lump to look out for.’

The new data shows that the number of women invited for screening has increased by more than half a million in the last decade.

Nearly 2.6 million women were invited for a mammogram last year. Of these, 1.84 million attended the screening.

The figures show that uptake was highest in the East Midlands where three quarters of women attended screening.

It was lowest in London where 64 per cent attended, but it was highest in the East Midlands where 75.2 per cent of women turned up. 

The report on breast screening uptake in England shows that 18,402 cancers were detected in 2016/17.

Two fifths of these women had invasive but small cancers which are less than 15mm in diameter and are usually too small to detect by hand.

The news follows a national review five years ago that concluded women should be properly warned screening could end in potentially risky surgery. 

Members of the Independent Breast Cancer Screening Review found NHS leaflets used to inform women of the programme focus too much on the fact it saves lives.

The report revealed that for every life saved by screening, three women will end up having unneccessary surgery. 

And expert reports have casted serious doubts over the value of the NHS breast screening service, describing it a waste of time and money.   





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