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Breast cancer: fall in proportion of women screened in England

February 27, 2014: The proportion of women screened for breast cancer in England has fallen slightly, latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show.

*HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures

*Graphic available to show local coverage 

At 31 March 2013, 76.4 per cent of eligible women aged 53 to 70 (about 4.25 million women in total) had been screened within the last three years - a figure known as coverage3. This compares to 77.0 per cent at the same point in 2012 and to 77.2 per cent in 2011.

This is the second year running that coverage has fallen, although the figure is still above the NHS Cancer Screening Programme's minimum standard of 70 per cent.

Today's report about the Breast Screening Programme in England also shows a fall for the second year running in annual uptake - the proportion of women invited for screening who are screened adequately within six months.

In 2012-13,72.2 per cent of women aged 50 to 70 (about 1.68 million women in total) took up their invitation compared to 73.1 per cent in 2011-12 and 73.4 per cent in 2010-11.

Today's report includes data on those invited for breast screening, coverage, uptake of invitations, outcomes of screening and cancers detected. Considering coverage and uptake it also shows

Coverage at March 31 2013:

  • Coverage fell across all the 53-70 age groups compared to the previous year, with the exception of women aged 70, for whom coverage increased from 73.8 per cent to 74.2 per cent.
  • Coverage among women aged 53 to 70 was 70 per cent or above in all of England's reporting regions apart from London, which reported coverage of 68.7 per cent.

Uptake in 2012-13:

  • Uptake was highest among women in the 60 to 70 age groups at just over 73 per cent and lowest among women aged 71 to 74 (which includes the programme's age extension trial to women aged 71-73 years) at 66.7 per cent.
  • Uptake rates (considering the 50 to 70 age group) varied considerably according to the type of invitation. Uptake was lowest among those women who received a routine invitation having failed to respond to a previous invitation(s) - at 17.7 per cent.
  • Uptake (considering the 50 to 70 age group) fell in seven of eight reporting regions in 2012-13 compared with the previous year, with only London seeing an increase. However all regions but London (at 63.3 per cent) remained on or above the 70 per cent minimum standard.

HSCIC Chief Executive Alan Perkins said: "It goes without saying that the impact of breast cancer on people and their families can be severe and life-changing - this is why data included in today's report is so enormously important in trying to monitor, evaluate and understand the use and outcomes of the NHS Breast Screening programme in England.

"Today's figures point to a fall in the proportion of women who are taking up their screening invitation for the second year running - and while this is a relatively small fall in percentage terms - it is nevertheless a vital piece of information for health professionals and the public."

pdf icon Map showing coverage of the breast screening programme by Primary Care Organisation (PCO) among women aged 53-70 [159kb]

The full report is at:


Notes to editors

1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). It is England's trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 220 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.

2. Under the NHS Breast Screening Programme all eligible women aged 50-70 are invited for screening every three years. In December 2007 an extension to the NHS Breast Screening Programme to cover women aged 47-73 was announced The extension is being randomised which means that initially the age extension only affects around half of the women in the 47-49 and 71-73 age groups. Randomising the phasing in of the age extension trial means that the net benefit of extending the age range for breast screening can be evaluated. The programme is currently phasing in the extension. This started at selected pilot sites in 2009 but full roll-out of the extension trial is not expected to be completed until after 2016. Uptake reported for the 71 to 74 year age group is based on the 67,032 women invited in 2012-13. Uptake data is collected in an aggregate form and it is therefore not possible to produce a separate uptake figure for the 71 to 73 year age group.

3. The coverage of the screening programme is the proportion of women eligible at a particular point in time (31 March 2013 in this instance) who have had a test with a recorded result at least once in the previous three years. This figures excludes ineligible women (i.e. those who have had a bilateral mastectomy). Coverage of the programme is currently assessed on the 53 to 70 age group, as all women aged 50-70 are currently invited for screening every three years and may be first called at any time between their 50th and 53rd birthdays. The minimum standard for coverage, as identified by the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, is 70 per cent ( More information about this standard can be found within: Consolidated guidance on standards for the NHS Breast Screening Programme', April 2005, NHS Cancer Screening Programmes at:

4. Uptake is defined as the percentage of women invited for screening in the year, who were screened adequately within six months of invitation.

5. For media enquiries please contact or 0300 303 3888.

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