Breast screening coverage rises for first time in five years

More than three in four women aged 53 to 70 have undergone breast screening within the last three years, with uptake rising for the first time in five years in 2015/16, official data show.

The proportion of women attending breast screening is on the rise for the first time in half a decade, according to 2015/16 data on the NHS Breast Screening Programme published by NHS Digital.

Uptake of breast screening had previously been in decline since a peak in coverage of more than 77% in 2011.

In 2015/16, coverage for women aged 53 to 70 exceeded the 70% national minimum standard in all regions except London, where it stood at 69%.

A total of 2.16m women aged over 45 were screened, up 50,000 compared to the year before, 2014/15.

Of all women with cancers detected, 7,500 – 41% of those detected – had invasive cancers that would have been too small to detect through self-examination alone.

Breast screening uptake

Uptake was highest among women in the 65-70 year group and lowest in women aged 45-49.

The findings were published in the Breast Screening Programme report, published on Thursday.

The report said: ‘The aim of breast screening is to reduce mortality by finding breast cancer at an early stage when any changes in the breast are often too small to detect by self-examination.

‘Of all women with cancers detected in 2015/16, 41% had invasive but small cancers which are less than 15mm in diameter and are usually too small to detect by hand.

‘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 45-49 (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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