Breast cancer screening rates continue to fall, with Lothian failing to meet minimum standard

Breast cancer screening rates in Scotland have continued to fall, with NHS Lothian among four health boards failing to meet minimum acceptable levels.

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 6:00 am
NHS Lothian was one of four health boards which fell short of the minimum standard for screening rates.

Across the country, 71.2 per cent of eligible women attended routine screening in the three years to 2017-18 - down from 71.7 per cent in the previous three-year period and significantly lower than the 74.9 per cent achieved in 2008-9 to 2010-11.

Lothian’s figure of 69.2 per cent followed a steady decline from the 72 per cent recorded in 2007-8 to 2009-10.

Along with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Fife it failed to meet the minimum acceptable uptake standard of having at least 70 per cent of women aged 50-70 take part in screening.

The report showed there had been a slight increase in the cancer detection rate for women who had been screened.

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In Glasgow, where the rate was lowest, fewer than two thirds (65.8 per cent) of women attended.

In the most deprived parts of Scotland less than three out of five women attended for screening.

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The report showed a slight increase in the cancer detection rate for women who had been screened. And with almost 85 per cent of cancer cases in women being invasive breast cancer, it also stressed the importance of early detection.

More than half of the breast cancer cases in 2017-18 were found when the tumour was less was 15mm in size.

The report stated: “Such small tumours are unlikely to be detected by physical examination, highlighting the importance of screening in the early detection of breast cancer as picking up small cancers is one of the key methods to achieve the aim of reducing deaths due to breast cancer.”

Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “This declining breast cancer screening rate is particularly concerning given that the earlier cancer is caught, the better the outcome. There cannot be any excuse for health boards not to meet this important screening target.”

Labour’s Monica Lennon said reversing the fall in breast screening rates must be a priority for Health Secretary Jeane Freeman. She said: “Scotland needs to reverse this trend to save lives.”

Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “It’s clear the Scottish Government needs to do more to reverse this worrying trend and encourage people to take time out of busy days to get to the doctor and take up these tests.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said £5 million was being invested in national cancer screening programmes. And she said a review of breast screening would look at everything from invitation process to technology and future requirements in a bid to increase uptake.