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Uptake of breast screening falls for third successive year

The number of women who had their breasts screened for anomalies fell for the third successive year in 2013-14, figures released by the HSCIC have shown.

The number of women who had their breasts screened for anomalies fell for the third successive year in 2013-14.

Figures from the HSCIC showed that 75.9% of women aged between 53 and 70 had been screened as of 31 March 2014, compared with 76.4% in 2013, 77% in 2012, and 77.2% in 2011. Despite the fall in uptake, the figures still exceed the NHS Breast Screening Programme's target of 70%.

Mia Rosenblatt, the head of policy and campaigns at the charity Breast Cancer Campaign, said: 'We are encouraged to see that despite a small decline in the proportion of women attending breast screening, the take up of screening over the last year remains well above the NHS Cancer Screening Programme's minimum standard of 70 %. Confidence in the screening programme seems to also remain strong, with over two million women attending a screening appointment during the year, around 110,000 more than last year.'

Despite the drop in uptake of screening, more cancers were detected in 2013/14. The screenings diagnosed cases of cancer in 17,961 women aged 45 and over in 2013/14, a rate of 8.6 cases per 1000 women screened. In comparison, 16,432 women had cancers detected in 2012/13, a rate of 8.3 cases per 1000 women screened. Of these, 39.9% were cancers too small to detect by hand and would not have been discovered without screening.

Ms Rosenblatt added: 'An independent review on breast screening concluded that it saves lives but also noted the risk of overtreatment as a result of screening.

'It is vital that women continue to receive detailed information to support them to make their own informed decision about whether to attend screening,' she said.

Overtreatment occurs when a slow growing, harmless growth is found, and is treated with invasive procedures unnecessarily.