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Breast cancer screening uptake at its lowest point in history

Breast cancer screening uptake fell to its lowest point ever during the pandemic, as the numbers of women seen dropped by more than one third.

Just 1.19 million women aged 45 and over were screened for breast cancer in 2020-21, while the numbers of women who actually took up their invitation for screening dropped to 61%.

Analysis by Breast Cancer Now, of the new NHS figures published on Thursday, found that uptake during the first year of the pandemic was the lowest it had been since records began.

The number of women who had cancer detected through screening decreased by almost 40 per cent, although rates when calculated per 1,000 women were up by 8.4%.

The news comes after NHS figures revealed that half of patients in October waited more than two weeks following an urgent breast cancer referral.

According to analysis from the Labour Party in January, breast cancer patients faced the longest waits when compared to all other cancer referrals.

Breast Cancer Now chief executive Baroness Delyth Morgan said: “Screening uptake has hit its lowest point in history, with less than 62% of women invited being screened, despite NHS staff working tirelessly, in the toughest of circumstances, to restart and continue breast screening services after they needed to be paused in March 2020.

“The human cost behind these figures is stark, with an estimated 8,870 women in the UK living with undetected breast cancer as a result of the pandemic – a significant number of which would have been detected at routine screening. Tragically, research suggests that up to an additional 680 women could die from breast cancer in the next decade due to impacts of the pandemic on screening.”

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Source: The Independent, 24 February 2022


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