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2.23m women screened for breast cancer in 2018-19

2.23m women aged 45 and over were screened for breast cancer in 2018-19, a 4.5% increase on 2017-18 (2.14m), and a 26.0% increase since 2008-09 (1.77m).

The greatest increases are in the over-70 age range, where 218,000 women were screened for breast cancer in 2018-19, a 51.2% increase on 2017-18 (144,000) due, at least in part, to invites sent to women who had not previously received a final invitation1.

For women aged 50 to 70, the number of women screened increased by 1.8%, from 1.83m in 2017-18 to 1.87m in 2018-19.

The Breast Screening Programme, England, 2018-19 provides information on the coverage, screening activity, number and uptake of invitations, as well as the outcome of screening and the rate of cancer detection of the NHS Breast Screening Programme2.


Coverage3, which is measured for women aged 53-70, dropped slightly to 74.6% in 2018-19, from 74.9% in 2017-18.

Coverage figures are based on the proportion of the eligible population screened within the last three years.

Therefore, coverage is affected by population fluctuations and screening activity over a three-year period - so changes in coverage may not directly mirror changes in the number of invites or screens in a given year.


Uptake4 of routine invitations for women aged 50 to 70 was 71.1% in 2018-19 (1.82m women), up from 70.5% in 2017-18 (1.79m).

The report shows that uptake was highest in the North East sub region at 75.3%5.

Uptake was above the national minimum standard of 70% in all regions except London, where it was 64.0% and the North West, where it was 69.5%.


In 2018-19, 84,559 women aged 45 and over were referred for assessment following screening. The total proportion of women aged 45 and over that were referred for assessment5 fell from 3.9% in 2017-18 to 3.8% in 2018-19. 

Cancer detection

In the core cohort of women aged 50-70, cancer detection remained broadly similar, with an increase in rate from 8.1 cases per 1,000 women screened in 2017-18, to 8.2 cases per 1,000 women screened in 2018-19.

In the wider cohort, the number of women aged 45 and over with cancers detected increased from 18,001 in 2017-18 to 19,558 in 2018-19.  This is an increase in the rate of cancers detected from 8.4 cases per 1,000 women screened in 2017-18 to 8.8 cases per 1,000 women screened in 2018-19.

The greatest increases are in the 71 to 74 age range (13.4 cases per 1,000 women screened in 2017-18, to 14.1 cases per 1,000 women screened in 2018-19) and the 75 and over age range (17.4 cases per 1,000 women screened in 2017-18, to 18.8 cases per 1,000 women screened in 2018-19).

Under the NHS Breast Screening Programme, eligible7 women will usually receive their first routine invitation for breast cancer screening between the ages of 50 and 53 and will normally be invited every three years until they are 70.

Read the full report

Breast Screening Programme, England, 2018-19

Notes to Editors

  1. In May 2018, a serious incident within the NHS Breast Screening Programme was identified. Invitations were not sent to some women who were due to receive their final screen (in the 36 months before their 71st birthday).  An Independent Breast Screening Review was carried out, the report can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-breast-screening-review-report

As part of addressing this issue, Public Health England contacted women who previously did not receive their final invite. Invites were sent during the 2018-19 financial year and activity associated with these invites are included in the 2018-19 data in this report.

The activity relates to women over the age of 70, primarily in the 71-74 years age group.

It is not possible to distinguish between activity relating to the incident and any other activity and therefore any increases in invites, uptake and cancers detected may be due to the extra invites.

  1. The NHS Breast Screening Programme is offered to women aged 50 to their 71st birthday.  Eligible women receive a letter explaining the programme and the benefits and risks of breast screening.  Women do not always receive an invitation when they turn 50 but can expect an invitation within three years of their 50th birthday.  In some areas, women aged 47 to 49 and 71 to 73 receive invitations for screening. This is part of a study looking at whether to extend the breast screening age range (AgeX trial).
  2. Coverage is defined as the percentage of women in the population who are eligible for screening at a particular point in time (31 March 2019 in this instance), who have had a test with a recorded result within the last three years. Currently, coverage is best assessed using the 53-70 age group as women may be first called at any time between their 50th and 53rd birthdays.
  3. Uptake is the percentage of women invited for screening in the year, who were screened adequately within six months of invitation.  Refers only to women who have received a routine invite to screening, it does not include short term recalls or GP and self-referrals.
  4. The seven reporting regions are;
    • North East, Yorkshire & the Humber (NEYH), made up of North East and Yorkshire & the Humber
    • North West,
    • East Midlands,
    • West Midlands,
    • East of England,
    • London,
    • South, made up of South East and South West
  5. Referred for assessment includes women referred for cytology, core biopsy or open biopsy.
  6. A woman is eligible if she has not had a double mastectomy.


Channel website: https://digital.nhs.uk

Original article link: https://digital.nhs.uk/news-and-events/latest-news/2.23m-women-screened-for-breast-cancer-in-2018-19

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