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Breast cancer: proportion of women screened falls for third year running

18 February 2015: Almost 40 per cent of invasive cancers found are usually too small to detect by hand

*HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures

*Regional and local data are available within this report

The proportion of women screened for breast cancer in England has fallen for the third consecutive year, latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show.

At 31 March 2014, 75.9 per cent (4.28 million)3 of the 5.64 million eligible4 women aged 53 to 70 had been screened within the last three years - a figure known as coverage5. This compares to 76.4 per cent6 at the same point in 2013, 77.0 per cent6 in 2012 and a peak of 77.2 per cent6 in 2011.

Although coverage has fallen for the third year running, it is still above the NHS Cancer Screening Programme's minimum standard of 70 per cent7.

Today's report, featuring statistics on the Breast Screening Programme in England, also shows that of the 17,961 women aged 45 and over with cancers detected by the programme in 2013-14, 39.9 per cent (7,175 women) had invasive but small cancers which are less than 15mm in diameter and are usually too small to detect by hand. This compares with 40.0 per cent (6,565 women) in 2012-13.

Considering coverage, uptake8 and cancers detected, the report also shows:

Coverage at March 31 2014:

  • Coverage fell across all five of the age groups9 within the 53 to 70 range, with the notable decrease being among the three younger age groups.
  • Coverage for women aged 53 to 70 reached the NHS Cancer Screening Programme's minimum standard of 70 per cent or above in all but one of the nine regions10; London reported coverage of 68.9 per cent. East Midlands reported the highest coverage at 80.3 per cent.

Uptake in 2013-14:

  • The proportion of women invited for screening within the year who took up their invitation within six months - has also fallen for the third consecutive year. In 2013-14, 72.1 per cent of women aged 50 to 70 (1.73 million of the 2.40 million invited women) took up their invitation to be screened, compared to 72.2 per cent11 in 2012-13 and 73.1 per cent11 in 2011-12.
  • Uptake was highest among women in the 60 to 70 age groups (above 73 per cent) and lowest (below 69 per cent) among women aged 45 to 49 and 71 to 7412 which covers the programme's age extension trial to women aged 47-49 and 71-73 years.
  • Uptake rates varied considerably according to the type of invitation13. Uptake was lowest (at 18.3 per cent) amongst women who received a routine invitation, having failed to respond to a previous invitation(s).

Cancers Detected in 2013-14:

  • A total of 17,961 women aged 45 and over had cancers detected by the screening programme, a rate of 8.6 cases per 1,000 women screened. This compares with 16,432 women with cancers detected in 2012-13 (a rate of 8.3 cases per 1,000 women screened)
  • Detection rates were lowest for women aged 45 to 49 and 55 to 59 (6.5 women with cancer detected per 1,000 women screened) and highest amongst women over 70 years (15.6 per 1,000 women screened).

pdf icon Breast screening coverage among women aged 53 to 70 by local authority, 2013-14 [95kb] 

You can view the full report at: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/pubs/brstscreen1314

ENDS


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 (NHSBSP) all eligible women aged 50 to 70 are invited for screening every three years. The NHSBSP is currently undertaking a randomised controlled trial on extending the programme to women aged 47 to 49 and 71 to 73. This started at selected pilot sites in 2009 and by the end of the 2013-14 collection year, 72 out of 80 breast screening units (90.0 per cent) were taking part in the trial. The randomisation trial means that initially it only affects around half of the women aged 47 to 49 and 71 to 73. The trial will allow the programme to assess the net benefit of extending the age range for breast screening to these age groups. Results showing the impact of breast screening on mortality are expected in the early 2020s.

3. All numbers in the report and press release are absolute, except where millions are quoted. These are to two decimal places. Percentages are rounded to one decimal place.

4. A woman is eligible if she has not had a bilateral mastectomy.

5. The coverage of the screening programme is the proportion of women eligible at a particular point in time (31 March 2014 in this instance) that have had a test with a recorded result at least once in the previous three years. This figure excludes ineligible women. Coverage of the programme is currently assessed on the 53 to 70 age group, as all women aged 50 to 70 are currently invited for screening every three years and may be first called at any time between their 50th and 53rd birthdays.

6. 4.25 million women screened of the 5.56 million eligible women aged 53 to 70 as at 31 March 2013.

4.16 million women screened of the 5.41 million eligible women aged 53 to 70 as at 31 March 2012.

4.09 million women screened of the 5.30 million eligible women aged 53 to 70 as at 31 March 2011.

7. 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: http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/breastscreen/publications/nhsbsp60v2.pdf

8. Uptake is defined as the percentage of women invited for screening in the year, who were screened adequately within six months of invitation. A technically adequate screen is defined as one which gives sufficient detail to allow a decision to be made for assessment or to return to a routine recall status.

Uptake reported for the 71 to 74 year age group is based on the 75,701 women invited in 2013-14. 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.

9. Age groups with the 53 to 70 age range include:

  • 53 to 54
  • 55 to 59
  • 60 to 64
  • 65 to 69
  • 70

10. The nine reporting regions are; North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England, London, South East and South West

11. 1.68 million women of the 2.32 million women invited for screening took up their invitation in 2012-13.

1.69 million women of the 2.31 million women invited for screening took up their invitation in 2011-12.

12. This includes the programme's age extension trial to women aged 47 to 49 and 71 to 73 years. Full roll out of the age extension trial is not expected to be complete until after 2016 and uptake for the 45 to 49 and 71 to 74 year age groups is based on 265,611 and 75,701 women invited respectively in 2013-14.

13. The types of invitation a woman can receive are; first invitation for routine screening, routine invitation to previous non-attenders, routine invitation to previous attenders (last screen within 5 years), routine invitation to previous attenders (last screen more than 5 years) and short term recall.

14. For the first time, today's report also includes information on women who were considered 'high risk.' A woman can be referred by a GP or another relevant professional group for genetic or oncology assessment where her medical history or family history indicates a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

A total of 1,036 women were recorded as having been invited for high-risk screening in 2013-14 and 1,231 high-risk women were screened. Women who received MRI screening only are not currently recorded on the National Breast Screening System (NBSS) as having been invited which could explain why the number screened are higher than the number invited. As this is the first year the data are published, they are not of the same quality as the statistics in the rest of the publication. The data have therefore been labelled as experimental statistics and are additional analysis beyond the National Statistics badge.

15. For media enquiries please contact media@hscic.gov.uk or 0300 30 33 888.

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