The NHS Breast Screening Programme provides free breast screening for
all women in the UK aged 50 and over. Women aged between 50 and 64 are
routinely invited for breast screening every three years. Work is being
carried out to extend the programme to women up to and including the age
of 70 by the end of 2004 – this is the biggest expansion to the
programme since it was launched. Women over 70 are encouraged to make
their own appointments.
The breast screening programme is an effective part of the UK’s
efforts to reduce mortality from breast cancer. In September 2000, the
first research was published which demonstrated that the screening
programme has lowered mortality rates from breast cancer in the 55-69
age group. It is estimated that the programme is on course to save 1,250
lives per year (25 per cent reduction in mortality) by the year 2010.
The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer
(IARC) concluded that there is sufficient evidence for the efficacy of
breast screening of women between 50 and 69 years, but that there is
currently only limited evidence for screening women aged 40-49 years.
Policy for the NHS Breast Screening Programme is based on sound
research evidence and subject to regular review and reappraisal. As part
of that review, a National Cancer Research Institute (formerly UKCCCR)
funded trial is currently underway involving 159,000 women. This trial
is taking place over 15 years and will evaluate the effect of annual
breast screening starting from age 40. It will examine what benefits, if
any, are gained by screening women under 50. Full results are expected
in about two year’s time.
Breast Screening – THE FACTS
Cervical Screening – THE FACTS
Over 70? You are still entitled to breast screening