Breast cancer diagnosis and treatment statistics

Routes to diagnosis

'Two-week wait' is the most common route to diagnosing breast cancer

Screening Uptake

Women who have breast screening within 6 months of invitation, UK

 

Surgery Rate

Breast cancer patients receiving major surgical resection, 2006-10, England

 

Patient Experience

Breast cancer patients rating their care very good or excellent, 2014, England

Around half (51%) of female invasive breast cancer cases in England are diagnosed via the ‘two-week wait’ referral route. This proportion is high compared with the average across all cancer types.[1] Around 8 in 10 (79%) of these cases with known stage are diagnosed early (stage I or II).[2]

Almost a third (31%) of female invasive breast cancer cases in England are detected by screening. This proportion is high compared with the average across all cancer types.[1] More than 9 in 10 (94%) cases with known stage are diagnosed early (stage I or II).[2]

Around a tenth (9%) of female invasive breast cancer cases in England are diagnosed following a routine or urgent GP referral (but not under the two week wait referral route). This proportion is low compared with the average across all cancer types.[1] More than three quarters (77%) of these cases with known stage are diagnosed early (stage I or II).[2]

Around 5 in 100 (4%) of female invasive breast cancer cases in England are diagnosed after presenting as an emergency. This proportion is low compared with the average across all cancer types, and probably indicates earlier diagnosis in general. 6 in 10 (60%) of these cases with known stage are diagnosed late (stages III or IV) [2]. Two thirds (66%) of emergency presentation cases are via Accident and Emergency (A&E), with the other cases coming via an emergency GP referral, inpatient referral or outpatient referral.[3]

There are variations in routes to diagnosis by sex, age, deprivation and ethnicity.[4]

Breast Cancer (C50), Percentage of Cases by Route to Diagnosis, Adults Aged 15-99, England, 2012-2013

Breast Cancer (C50), Percentage of Cases by Stage for each Route to Diagnosis, Adults Aged (15-99), England, 2012-2013

Last reviewed:

'14-day / Two-week wait'

England meets the standard for their country on the percentage of patients first seen by a specialist within two weeks of urgent GP referral for suspected cancer.[1]

'Two-week wait' supports early diagnosis as spotting cancer early is important for improving survival, so it is important that patients with potential cancer symptoms are referred promptly. 

'31-day wait'

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland meet the standard for their country on the percentage of patients that receive their first cancer treatment within 31 days of a decision to treat, while Wales does not meet the standard for their country.[1-4]

The speed at which patients receive their first treatment can have a positive outcome on their clinical outcome, so it is important that patients with cancer symptoms are treated promptly.

'62-day wait'

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland meet the standard for their country on the percentage of patients receiving their first definitive treatment for cancer within two months of a GP referral for suspected cancer, while Wales does not meet the standard for their country.[1-4]

The speed at which patients receive their first treatment can have a positive outcome on their clinical outcome, so it is important that patients with cancer symptoms are treated promptly.

Cancer waiting times coding and standards are different in each country and so comparisons should not be made between countries, only each country against their own measures.

Breast Cancer, Waiting Times, UK countries, 2014-15

    England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland
'14-day wait': seen by specialist following referral Performance 95%      
Standard 93%      
Performance against standard Meets standard      
'31-day wait': receipt of first treatment following decision to treat Performance 98.8% 96.2% 97.3% 99%
Standard 96% 98% 95% 98%
Performance against standard Meets standard Does not meet standard Meets standard Meets standard
'62-day wait': receipt of first treatment following referral Performance 95.9% 88.9% 98.1% 97.5%
Standard 85% 95% 95% 95%
Performance against standard Meets standard Does not meet standard Meets standard Meets standard

Data not available for '14-day wait' in Wales, Scotland or NI.

References

  1. NHS England. Cancer waiting times(link is external).Accessed May 2015.
  2. StatsWales. Cancer waiting times. Accessed May 2015. 
  3. ISD Scotland. Cancer Waiting Times. Accessed June 2015. 
  4. Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. Cancer Waiting Times. Accessed June 2015.
Last reviewed:

Almost three quarters (74%) of breast cancer patients receive a major surgical resection as part of their cancer treatment.[1

The proportion of breast cancer patients receiving a resection varies with age, with fewer resections in the oldest age group (25% in those aged 85+) compared with the youngest (82% in those aged 15-54).[1]

Breast  cancer (C50), Proportion of Patients Receiving a Major Surgical Resection, by Age, England, 2006-2010

 

References

  1. National Cancer Intelligence Network and Cancer Research UK. Major resections by cancer site, in England; 2006 to 2010 workbook (Version 2.0 - reissued June 2015). London: NCIN; 2015.
Last reviewed:

90% of breast cancer patients rate their care as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’.[1] Patient experience varies with individual needs and concerns, which are influenced by many aspects of personal background, disease characteristics and the care environment.

91% of patients were given the name of a Clinical Nurse Specialist in charge of their care.[1] Being given the name of a Clinical Nurse Specialist in charge of a patients’ care is the factor most likely to be associated with high patient satisfaction scores.[2]

87% said they saw their GP once or twice before being told they had to go to hospital.[1] How often a patient sees their GP before being referred to hospital varies by cancer type depending on ease of diagnosis.[3]

For breast cancer the proportion that said they saw their GP once or twice before being told they had to go to hospital is higher than the average for all cancer patients.[1]  

Spotting cancer early is important for improving survival so it is important that patients with potential cancer symptoms are referred for tests promptly.

Breast cancer (C50), Patient Experience Survey, by Sex, England, 2014

Female Male Persons
Percentage of patients treated for cancer who visited their GP once or twice about the health problem caused by their cancer 87.5% 83.3% 87.4%
Percentage of patients treated for cancer who said they were given the name of a Clinical Nurse Specialist in charge of their care 90.7% 89.0% 90.7%
Percentage of patients treated for cancer who rated their overall care as excellent or very good 90.3% 97.4% 90.3%

Last reviewed:

Around three-quarters (74%) of women in the UK aged 50-70 who are invited for breast screening are screened adequately (with a definitive usable result) within 6 months of invitation (FY2012/13).[1] Uptake exceeds the UK minimum standard, set at 70% by the NHS Breast Screening Programme.[2]

Breast Screening Coverage and Uptake, Women, UK, FY2012/13 and FY2013/14

England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland UK
Breast screening coverage (% of eligible women aged 53-70 screened adequately in past 3 years) 75.9 67.0
Breast screening uptake (% of invited women aged 50 to 70 screened adequately within 6 months of invitation) 72.1 71.9 72.9 73.9 73.7

Data not available for coverage in Scotland, Northern Ireland, or UK.
 

Coverage and uptake exceeds the UK minimum standard in all England reporting regions except London (coverage and uptake) and the North West (uptake only) (FY2013/14).[2] Uptake exceeds the UK minimum standard in all breast screening units in Wales (FY2013/14) and Northern Ireland (FY2012/13), and in all NHS Boards in Scotland except NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (on average between FY2011 and FY2014).[3-5]

References

  1. NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP). Breast Screening Results from the NHSBSP 2012/13. London: Queen Mary University of London; 2014.
  2. Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Breast Screening Programme, England - 2013-14. London: HSCIC; 2015.
  3. Breast Test Wales. Breast Test Wales Programme Performance Report 2013-14. Cardiff: Public Health Wales; 2015.
  4. Information Services Division Scotland (ISD Scotland). Scottish Breast Screening Programme Statistics 2013/14. Edinburgh: ISD Scotland; 2015.
  5. Northern Ireland Breast Screening Programme. Annual Report & Statistical Bulletin 2012-2013. Belfast: Public Health Agency; 2014
Last reviewed:

Breast screening uptake in the UK varies little with age group, but peaks in women aged 60-64 (FY2012/13).[1]

Breast Screening Uptake by Age at Test, Women, UK, FY2012/13

Breast screening coverage in England varies little with age group among women aged 53-70, but is markedly lower in screening-eligible women outside this age group.[2] This is because women may receive their screening invitation up to 3 years after they become eligible (due to the length of the screening round), and may be screened after they have become ineligible (if they received an invitation while they were still eligible). This is why coverage data are normally given for women aged 53-70.

References

  1. NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP). Breast Screening Results from the NHSBSP 2012/13. London: Queen Mary University of London; 2014.
  2. Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Breast Screening Programme, England - 2013-14. London: HSCIC; 2015.
Last reviewed:

Breast screening uptake among women aged 50-70 in the UK peaked in FY2010/11, and has since fallen slightly.[1]

Breast screening coverage among women in England aged 53-70 peaked in FY2010/11, and has since fallen slightly.[2]

References

  1. NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP). Breast Screening Results from the NHSBSP 2012/13. London: Queen Mary University of London; 2014.
  2. Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Breast Screening Programme, England - 2013-14. London: HSCIC; 2015.
Last reviewed:

4% of women aged 50-70 who have breast screening in the UK are referred for assessment after screening (FY2012/13).[1] The proportion of screened women in the UK referred for further assessment generally decreases with age.[1] The proportion of screened women aged 50-70 in the UK referred for further assessment has fallen from around 5% in FY2004/05.[1]

Less than 1% of women aged 50-70 who have breast screening in the UK have breast cancer detected through screening (FY2012/13).[1] The proportion of screened women in the UK who have breast cancer detected through screening overall increases with age.[1] The proportion of screened women aged 50-70 in the UK who have breast cancer detected through screening has changed little since FY2004/05.[1]

Referral for Further Assessment and Breast Cancer Detection Following Breast Screening, Women Aged 50-70, UK, FY2004/05-FY2012/13

Almost 8 in 10 (79%) of cancers detected among women aged 50-70 through breast screening in the UK are invasive breast cancers, and around a fifth (21%) are in-situ or micro-invasive (FY2012/13).[1]

Rates of referral for further assessment following breast screening among women aged 45 and over in England are higher in first screens (8%) than in subsequent screens (3%).[2] At the first screen there is no baseline of what is normal for the woman, so all unusual findings are investigated in full, whereas at subsequent screens only findings which are new and unusual for the woman are investigated.[3] Younger women are more likely to be on their first screening rather than subsequent screens. Also mammograms are harder to read in women under 50 compared with older women, and in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) users compared with non-users, because in both groups breast tissue is more dense.[4-7]

References

  1. NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP). Breast Screening Results from the NHSBSP 2012/13. London: Queen Mary University of London; 2014.
  2. Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Breast Screening Programme, England - 2013-14. London: HSCIC; 2015.
  3. National Health Service Breast Screening Programme. NHS Breast Screening. 2012.
  4. Mushlin AI, Kouides RW, Shapiro DE. Estimating the accuracy of screening mammography: a meta-analysis. Am J Prev Med. 1998 ;14(2):143-53.
  5. Banks E. Hormone replacement therapy and the sensitivity and specificity of breast cancer screening: a review. J Med Screen. 2001;8(1):29-34.
  6. Banks E, Reeves G, Beral V et al. Influence of personal characteristics of individual women on sensitivity and specificity of mammography in the Million Women Study: cohort study. BMJ. 2004;329(7464):477.
  7. Crouchley K, Wylie E, Khong E. Hormone replacement therapy and mammographic screening outcomes in Western Australia. J Med Screen. 2006;13(2):93-7.
Last reviewed:

Among women aged 50-70 in the UK, for every breast cancer death prevented through breast screening, 3 women will be overdiagnosed (have treatment for a cancer that would not have caused them problems).[1] Among women aged 50-70 in the UK, each year breast screening results in around 4,000 overdiagnosed breast cancer cases, and around 1,300 breast cancer deaths prevented.

20-year Outcomes for Women With and Without Breast Screening, Estimates per 1,000 Women, UK

Estimated 20-year outcomes per 1,000 UK women No breast screening

With breast screening

Deaths from breast cancer 21 16
Lives saved by breast screening 0 5
Women treated for breast cancer and survived 37 59
Breast cancer present but not diagnosed, with no ill effects 17 0
Breast cancer overdiagnosed due to screening 0 17

It takes around 11 years before one breast cancer death is prevented for 1,000 women screened, a meta-analysis showed.[4These are conservative estimates of the risk reduction and rate of overdiagnosis. Firstly they are based on all women invited to screening, not just those who receive screening (intention-to-treat analysis), though only women who receive screening obtain the benefits of it. Secondly they do not take into account that both screening uptake and breast cancer incidence are higher in less deprived women,[2,3] so the screened population effectively stands to benefit more from breast screening due to its baseline higher risk. The benefits and harms of breast screening can only be estimated, as obtaining actual data would require purposely withholding breast screening from some women and following them up until death.[1] However, estimates are uncertain because they are based on relatively old studies with some methodological limitations.[1]

Female breast cancer 3-year relative survival is higher among people diagnosed via screening than those diagnosed via any other route, data for 2006-2013 show.[5]

UK women aged 55-79 invited to breast screening have an estimated 20% lower risk of dying from breast cancer compared with the expected risk of dying from breast cancer without a screening programme.[1] An estimated 19% of breast cancers diagnosed in women aged 50 to 70 invited for screening would not have caused any problem if left undiagnosed and untreated.[1]

The sensitivity (true positive rate) of digital screening mammography is 89%, and the specificity (true negative rate) is 72%, a meta-analysis showed.[6] Breast cancer mortality risk is not reduced by having breast screening more frequently than every 3 years, and is probably not reduced by starting breast screening at age 39.[7-11]

References

  1. Independent UK Panel on Breast Cancer Screening. The benefits and harms of breast cancer screening: an independent review. Lancet 2012; 380; 1778-86.
  2. National Cancer Intelligence Network. Cancer by deprivation in England 1996-2011. London: NCIN; 2014.
  3. Maheswaran R, Pearson T, Jordan H, Black D. Socioeconomic deprivation, travel distance, location of service, and uptake of breast cancer screening in North Derbyshire, UK. J Epidemiol Community Health 2006; 60(3): 208-12.
  4. Lee SJ, Boscardin WJ, Stijacic-Cenzer I, et al. Time lag to benefit after screening for breast and colorectal cancer: meta-analysis of survival data from the United States, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Denmark. BMJ. 2013. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e8441
  5. National Cancer Intelligence Network. Routes to diagnosis 2006-2013. London: NCIN; 2014.
  6. Lei J, Yang P, Zhang L, Wang Y, Yang K. Diagnostic accuracy of digital breast tomosynthesis versus digital mammography for benign and malignant lesions in breasts: a meta-analysis. Eur Radiol 2014; 24(3): 595-602.
  7. Breast Screening Frequency Trial Group. The frequency of breast cancer screening: results from the UKCCCR Randomised Trial. United Kingdom Co-ordinating Committee on Cancer Research. Eur J Cancer 2002; 38(11): 1458-64.
  8. von Karsa L, Anttila A, Ronco G, Ponti A, Malila N, Arbyn M et al. Cancer screening in the European Union: Report on the implementation of the Council Recommendation on cancer screening, First Report. Brussels: European Commission; 2008.
  9. Moss SM, Cuckle H, Evans A, et al. Effect of mammographic screening from age 40 years on breast cancer mortality at 10 years' follow-up: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2006; 368(9552): 2053-60.
  10. Nelson HD, Tyne K, Naik A, et al. Screening for breast cancer: an update for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med 2009; 151(10): 727-37.
  11. Magnus MC, Ping M, Shen MM, Bourgeois J, Magnus JH. Effectiveness of mammography screening in reducing breast cancer mortality in women aged 39-49 years: a meta-analysis. J Womens Health (Larchmt) 2011; 20(6): 845-52.
Last reviewed:

Cancer Statistics Explained

See information and explanations on terminology used for statistics and reporting of cancer, and the methods used to calculate some of our statistics.

Citation

You are welcome to reuse this Cancer Research UK statistics content for your own work.

Credit us as authors by referencing Cancer Research UK as the primary source. Suggested styles are:

Web content: Cancer Research UK, full URL of the page, Accessed [month] [year]. 

Publications: Cancer Research UK ([year of publication]), Name of publication, Cancer Research UK. 

Rate this page:

Currently rated: 1 out of 5 based on 1 vote
Thank you!
We've recently made some changes to the site, tell us what you think

Share this page