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National Statistics
Publication, Part of

Breast Screening Programme, England - 2015-16

National statistics, Official statistics
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
Geographical Granularity:
Country, Government Office Regions, Regions, Local Authorities
Date Range:
01 Apr 2015 to 31 Mar 2016


Women between the ages of 50 and 70 are invited for regular breast screening (every three years) under a national programme. Screening is intended to reduce mortality by detecting breast cancer at an early stage when there is a better chance of successful treatment. This report presents information about the NHS Breast Screening Programme in England in 2015-16 and includes data on women invited for breast screening, coverage, uptake of invitations, outcomes of screening and cancers detected.

The 2015-16 publication features an online interactive dashboard for the first time to complement the existing publication resources. Access the dashboard tool or by clicking on the link in the Resources section below.



Coverage is defined as the percentage of women in the population who are eligible for screening at a particular point in time, who have had a test with a recorded result within the last three years.

Coverage of women aged 53-70 was 75.5 per cent at 31 March 2016, compared with 75.4 per cent at the same point in 2015, and a peak of 77.2 per cent in 2011. This represents the first increase in coverage in 5 years and remains above the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes' minimum standard of 70 per cent.

Coverage for women aged 53-70 was 70 per cent or above (the national minimum standard) in all but one region; London reported coverage of 69.3 per cent. East Midlands reported the highest coverage at 79.8 per cent

Overall Screening Activity

In total, 2.16 million women aged 45 and over were screened within the programme in 2015-16. This compares with 2.11 million in 2014-15 and represents an increase of 2.7 per cent.

Invitations and Uptake

The number of women aged 45 and over invited for screening increased by 1.8 per cent to 2.85 million in 2015-16, from 2.80 million in 2014-15. There was a notable increase in women aged 71-74 invited (12.8 per cent), which covers part of the age extension trial.

Uptake of routine invitations amongst women aged 50-70 has risen for the first time since 2011. In 2015-16, 72.1per cent took up their invitation to be screened and were screened adequately within six months of invitation, this compares with 71.3 per cent in 2014-15.

Cancers Detected

The aim of breast screening is to reduce mortality by finding breast cancer at an early stage when any changes in the breast are often too small to detect by self-examination. Of all women with cancers detected in 2015-16, 41.2 per cent (7,543 women) had invasive but small cancers which are less than 15mm in diameter and are usually too small to detect by hand. This compares with 40.5 per cent (7,301 women) in 2014-15.

The age profile of women with cancer detected by the screening programme shows the incidence of breast cancer increasing with age. Detection rates were lowest for women aged 45-49 (6.2 women with cancer detected per 1,000 women screened). The detection rate was highest amongst women over 70 years (14.6 women per 1,000 women screened).


Last edited: 17 June 2021 5:02 pm