Yesterday, the NHS published its annual report on the Breast Screening Programme.

Routine breast screening is offered to all women between the ages of 50 and 70.

The report shows a small percentage increase of women taking up their invitations from 70.5% in 2017-18 to 71.1% in 2018-19.

Our Clinical and Research Director, Dr Caroline Hoffman, responds to the report below: 

“Although the latest figures show a small rise in uptake, they remain deeply concerning and well below the NHS’s agreed national standard of 80%.”

“The fact that only 71.1% of women attend their routine screenings is particularly troubling given that one in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life time. The importance of catching breast cancer early cannot be underestimated and mammograms are the main way this is currently done.”

“Women do not attend screenings for a number of reasons, which all need addressing urgently. All to often, appointments are only offered during working hours, which acts as a barrier to access for a significant part of the population. It’s vital that women can fit screenings around their busy lives and extending these hours would be a step in the right direction.”

“At the same time, we have to make sure that we don’t spread misinformation about mammograms. Over the years, there have been a number of sensationalist and misleading headlines in the media suggesting that mammograms are harmful in some way. The reality is that is that the risks are negligible and easily outweighed by the possibility of early cancer detection.”

“In addition, there is an idea that mammograms are painful or invasive. Although it may be painful for some, the majority of women only feel some minor discomfort during the procedure, which only lasts a matter of seconds.”

“There are also psychological factors at play. Women often feel that they have enough stress and pressure in their lives that they do not wish to add to. The fear of a potential diagnosis means that some women simply prefer not to know. Although this fear is understandable, it’s important women understand the benefits of attending and also get any emotional support they need around this.“

“Global leaders in the field of breast cancer screening and prevention are looking to focus on being at high risk of breast cancer and we will be moving towards genetic testing as a new part of this.”

“But mammograms aren’t the end of the story when it comes to  breast cancer detection. Although on occasion symptoms aren’t visible, breast awareness saves lives. Women need to be familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts. For pre-menopausal women, this includes how their breasts change over the menstrual cycle. Getting to know the normal look and feel of their breasts, and the surrounding areas, will allow women to spot any unusual changes. Last year, research from The Estée Lauder Companies UK & Ireland found that one in five women under 40 have never checked their breasts for signs of cancer. This is something we have to change.“

“Women under 40's are not routinely screened unless there is a family history of breast cancer. However, if  a pre-menopausal woman is diagnosed, their cancer may be more aggressive and the outcomes poorer.”

Watch Dr Caroline Hoffman discuss the importance of going for a mammogram.

If you have any concerns or questions, please contact us on 0300 0120 112