Wales announces fall in breast cancer deaths

In collaboration with the Press Association

The number of deaths from breast cancer in Wales has fallen from 39 per cent of breast cancer patients in 1993 to 27 per cent in 2007.

The figures were released by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU) to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the launch of Breast Test Wales, the country's breast screening service.

They also reveal that the number of deaths from breast cancer fell by nearly two per cent in 2007 alone.

Dr Hilary Fielder, director of screening services in Wales, said that he was "delighted" by the drop in deaths from the disease.

"Since we started providing breast screening services 20 years ago, we have worked hard to ensure that more cases of breast cancer are diagnosed and treated earlier - and we are delighted to see that the data shows this."

Breast Test Wales has conducted 1,388,684 screening tests since it was launched.

Around 150,000 women are screened every year and around one third of the 2,500 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer in Wales each year are picked up by the screening process.

Nancy Nicholas is just one of the many women whose lives may have been saved by the screening service in Wales.

She revealed: "I went to my routine scan with Breast Test Wales and it was found that I had breast cancer. Because it was detected early I was treated quickly and I am now in recovery.

"I am very grateful that the scan detected my cancer and would urge others to utilise the excellent screening services. The screening took no time at all and has saved my life."

Catherine Thomson, head of statistical information at Cancer Research UK, said that the figures were "extremely welcome news".

"Thanks to improvements in early diagnosis, the success of the screening programme and better

treatments, death rates from breast cancer have fallen by almost 17 per cent across the UK in the last ten years," Ms Thomson revealed.

"But it's vital that we're not complacent. Monitoring and improving the screening programme needs to continue to ensure it meets the needs of the UK population - particularly as more women are living longer and the older a woman is the greater her risk of breast cancer."

Women in Wales will soon benefit from an even more modern screening service thanks to a £15 million investment from the Welsh Assembly Government.

The money is being used to modernise equipment so that Breast Test Wales can use the latest digital screening, imaging and storage technology, enabling faster and better processing and analysis of images.