Health minister approves plans to modernise breast screening services in Wales

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Welsh health minister Edwina Hart has approved plans to modernise the equipment used to screen women for breast cancer.

At present, the majority of screening in Wales is carried out by ten mobile screening units and breast assessment centres in Swansea, Cardiff, Wrexham and Llandudno.

More than 100,000 women are screened every year in Wales and the Velindre NHS Trust, which is Wales' specialist cancer trust, now plans to replace the existing analogue machines with the latest digital screening, imaging and storage technology.

- Sarah Woolnough, policy manager, Cancer Research UK

The move, which will be backed by million from the Welsh Assembly government, should enable images to be processed more quickly and analysed more accurately, enabling the service to meet increasing demand in the coming years.

Ms Hart emphasised the importance of investing in the prevention and early detection of cancer and revealed that the screening programme reduces breast cancer mortality among those who participate by 25 to 38 per cent.

"Swift diagnosis and treatment reduces the anxiety experienced by patients and their carers and will reduce the devastating impact that cancer can have on individuals and their families and friends," the minister said.

"Wales' population is getting older, with people living longer, healthier lives, which is something to be celebrated. However, this will place increased demand on services. It is anticipated that this new equipment will enable the services to meet that demand."

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK policy manager, said: "We welcome this decision and hope that new, modernised equipment will bring benefits to women in Wales by delivering faster screening results. Regular breast screening is important for the early detection of cancer and we encourage all women to attend when invited."

The new equipment is expected to be rolled out over three years, starting in 2010.