Breast cancer screening in Scotland to undergo ‘fundamental review’

Charities have welcomed the announcement that Scotland’s breast cancer screening programme is to undergo a fundamental review to ensure that it reaching as many eligible women as possible.

Women aged between 50 and 70 are invited for screening every three years
Women aged between 50 and 70 are invited for screening every three years
Women aged between 50 and 70 are invited for screening every three years

The review, announced yesterday by the Scottish Government, will examine the current programme, the pressures it faces and future options for delivery.

Breast Cancer Now, the UK’s leading research charity on the condition, hailed the review was “a much-needed and positive step forward”.

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Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said the Scottish Breast Screening Programme “needs to adapt to meet current demand”.

Women aged between 50 and 70 are invited for screening every three years, while those over 70 can refer themselves.

NHS Scotland’s National Services Division will carry out the review, which is expected to take around a year, and will also look at technological advances and ways to increase participation and tackle health inequalities.

Mr FitzPatrick said: “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 - some 800,000 women were eligible over the 2018-2021 period - and the programme needs to be able to keep pace with the increasing population and changes in technology and lifestyles.”

He added: “I also know the programme can be complex to administer with mobile screening units working around the country.

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

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“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.”

Ashleigh Simpson, Breast Cancer Now’s policy manager in Scotland, said: “NHS breast screening remains absolutely critical to early diagnosis in Scotland. With more women being diagnosed than ever before, and the workforce already under significant pressure, this review must tackle the clear and urgent challenges facing the Scottish Breast Screening Programme.

“The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more likely treatment is to be successful. So we need to do all that we can to increase attendance, including developing targeted initiatives to address any barriers and supporting more women to make attending screening a part of their lives.

“We also hope the review will lead us towards delivering a screening programme that can respond and adapt as new evidence emerges around more personalised screening.

“Most importantly, it’s crucial that this review is matched with adequate resource to deliver real and meaningful change for everyone at risk of breast cancer.”