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NHS Breast Screening Programme: Advice and help

 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