Breast cancer screening review announced as demand grows

Doctor holds up a mammogram in front of an x-ray illuminatorImage copyright
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The screening programme aims to find breast cancers early

A fundamental review of the Scottish Breast Screening Programme has been announced in the wake of growing demand for the service.

The review will assess the current programme, including the pressures it faces, and is expected to last a year.

Public Health Minister Joe Fitzpatrick said the programme, first introduced in 1988, needed to adapt to meet demand.

It comes after the figures for the 2018 to 2021 period showed 800,000 women were eligible for screening.

Women in Scotland aged 50 to 70 are routinely contacted and offered screening for breast cancer.

‘Increasing population’

The review will also examine advances in technology and ways to increase participation.

Announcing the review, Mr FitzPatrick told the Scottish Parliament: “We know that breast screening saves lives and we want our programme to be as effective as possible.

“The Scottish Breast Screening Programme needs to adapt to meet current demand.

“The number of women eligible for screening is growing and the programme needs to be able to keep pace with the increasing population and changes in technology and lifestyles.”

Woman undergoing breast screening


Scottish breast screening 2015-2016

  • 7,739Recalled for assessment

  • 1,251Total cancer found

  • 1,017Invasive cancer found

  • 229Non-invasive cancer found

Source: Scottish Breast Screening Programme (SBSP)

Mr FitzPatrick said the programme could be complex to administer as it involved mobile screening units working around the country.

He added: “We need to look at ways to free up workforce pressure and develop solutions to encourage participation and tackle health inequalities.

“This is why we have approved a review which will look at everything from invitation processes, technology and future requirements which will ensure that breast screening continues to support early diagnosis of breast cancer.”

‘Future proof’

The review will be carried out by National Services Division (NSD), a part of NHS National Services Scotland, which commissions and coordinates the programme.

NSD will report its conclusions to the Scottish Screening Committee, which will then provide advice to ministers.

Jim Miller, Director at NHS National Services Scotland, said: “Regular screening offers women the best chance of having breast cancer detected at an early stage and surviving.

“Significant changes have been made to the programme since it first began in 1988 and this review will allow us to make recommendations for continued improvements to the programme.

“As the number of women eligible for screening continues to increase, this review comes at the perfect time and offers real opportunities to future proof the service for women attending for screening, as well as the workforce who do such a fantastic job.”

Ashleigh Simpson from charity Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now said the review was “much needed” and a “positive step forward” to ensuring that the screening programme was fit for the future.

She added: “It’s crucial that this review is matched with adequate resource to deliver real and meaningful change for everyone at risk of breast cancer.”


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