Cancer cases detected by NHS breast screening double in ten years

In collaboration with the Press Association

The number of cancer cases detected by the NHS Breast Screening Programme has doubled in the last ten years, new figures show.

A report published by the NHS Information Centre shows that 14,100 cases of breast cancer were detected in 2007/08, up from 6,914 cases in 1997/98.

The majority of cancers detected through breast screening in 2007/08 (78.7 per cent) were invasive, which is the most serious type of breast cancer.

- Ed Yong, health information manager, Cancer Research UK

However, more than half of these were less than 15mm and would not have been detectable by hand.

The NHS Information Centre suggests that the increase in the number of cases could be the result of the breast screening programme being expanded to cover 65 to 70-year-olds.

Since this expansion, the programme in England, Wales and Scotland now invites women between the ages of 50 and 70 every three years to be screened.

This is being expanded further to include all women between the ages of 47 and 73 by 2012, according to the government's Cancer Reform Strategy.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, said: "The report highlights the success of the programme in picking up thousands of cases of breast cancer at an earlier stage than they would have been otherwise.

"Undoubtedly, the programme is saving an increasing number of women's lives not only as a result of improved coverage but also as a result of its extension to include older women."

The report reveals that more than 2.2 million women were invited for screening in 2007/08, up from 1.5 million in 1997/98.

Of those who were invited, 1.7 million were screened, compared with 1.2 million in 1997/97.

Mr Straughan noted that the future expansion of the breast screening programme should help detect "even more cancers at an earlier stage."

Ed Yong, Cancer Research UK's health information manager, said: "It's great news that more and more women are taking the opportunity to attend breast screening. The UK's breast screening programme remains a vitally important way of detecting breast cancer at an early stage, when it can be treated more successfully."