According to the Breast Screening Programme England, 2016-17 report that was published by NHS Digital, attendance for routine breast screenings has fallen dramatically. In fact, the uptake for this vital checkup is the lowest it has been for over 10 years.
The national programme encourages women between the ages of 50 and 70 to have breast screenings every three years. Apparently, the NHS is currently in the process of extending the age range to 47 to 73 as part of a trial. The scheme was designed to reduce mortality rates of breast cancer and, ideally, detect cases at an early stage—making treatment options more effective.
In 2016-17, the proportion of women taking up the invitation for screening fell to 71.1 percent, down from 72.1 percent in 2015-16 and 73.6 per cent in 2006-07. Additionally, 2.59 million women aged 50-70 were invited for breast screening in England during 2016-17. This compares with 2.48 million in 2015-16 and 2.07 million in 2006-07. So, although more women received an invitation to participate in breast screenings, fewer felt obligated or compelled to attend.
The Breast Screening Programme report also produced some interesting findings in regards to the geographical influence on attendance for 2016-17. The uptake was the highest in the East Midlands at 75.2 percent. Two regions fell below the national minimum standard of 70 percent; the north west at 68.8 percent and London at 64 percent.
Of all the women who resulted in a positive screening for cancer in 2016-17, 41.5 percent (7,600 women) had invasive forms of cancer that were less than 15 millimeters in diameter—this would usually be too small to detect by hand. This accentuates the vital role breast screenings play in identifying threatening cancer and why more women should attend.
The NHS suggests that approximately one in eight women will be detected with breast cancer in their lifetime. While the chances are high for recovery, this will be dependent on what stage the cancer is when it is identified. You are also less likely to require chemotherapy or a mastectomy (breast removal) if the condition is caught early. The screening itself involves an X-ray test called a mammogram—this is designed to spot cancers that are too small to see or feel. The breasts are scanned one at a time. After being placed on the X-ray machine, each breast is gently but firmly compressed with a clear plate, this is done from two different angles.
Women who are under the age of 50 are still being encouraged to perform self-checks on their breasts regularly. If you feel any lumps, hard tissue or are concerned in any way, contact your doctor to arrange a breast screening.
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