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Publication, Part of

NHS Breast Screening Programme, England 2020-21

National statistics, Official statistics

National Statistics

Programme summary


This publication presents information about the NHS Breast Screening Programme (‘the programme’) in England in 2020-21. It reports on women who are invited for regular screening, presenting information on coverage, overall screening activity, invitation uptake, screening outcomes and cancers detected.

Under the programme, women from the age of 50 to their 71st birthday (50-<71) are invited for regular breast screening every 3 years. The intention of the screening is to detect breast cancer at an early stage when there is a better chance of successful treatment.

In some circumstances, women outside of this age range are also screened as part of the programme either through self / general practitioner (GP) referral, or they may be invited as part of a research trial. Women at very high risk of breast cancer are treated separately, their data are reported in section 7 of this report.

In 2020-21 the NHS Breast Screening Programme was significantly impacted by disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. See COVID impact summary for details.
Data collection and validation processes were completed as normal, therefore, the accuracy and reliability of the statistics published in this report are of a comparable standard to previous years.


Presentation of data

Throughout this report, data are presented for several age ranges based on the appropriate definition in each case.

50 - <71 years

Core age range for the programme

Women are eligible to be invited to screening when they reach the age of 50 until they reach their 71st birthday.

53 - <71 years

Measurement for coverage

Coverage is measured for women aged 53 - <71, rather than 50 - <71, although a woman may first be invited any time between their 50th and 53rd birthday.

By the age of 53, all eligible women should have received an invitation.

45 years and over (45+)

Measurement for screening activity

Women outside the core age range (50 - <71 years) can be screened without an invitation through self / GP referral, or they may be invited as part of a research trial.

This age range therefore captures the full programme activity.

(Women cannot self-refer when aged below 50 years.)

Publication resources

Report bulletin (this document)

  • Presents a detailed summary of the findings from the 2020-21 data collection.
  • Further information on the data presented within this report is available in the additional publication resources outlined here.

Interactive dashboard

  • The main report is accompanied by an interactive data dashboard. Data are presented in maps and charts. This allows comparison between areas as well as showing changes over time.
  • The geographic breakdowns included in the dashboard are Upper Tier Local Authority (LA), Breast Screening Unit (BSU) and region.

Data tables

  • Contain all relevant statistics for 2020-21.
  • Available in Excel or csv format.


  • Further detail on a number of topics including:
    • Publication context
    • Coverage definitions
    • Changes to the programme
    • Data collection

Quality statement:

  • Contextual information to aid understanding and presentation of the data including the methods used to compile the statistics and other background information that users may find helpful. 

Last edited: 24 February 2022 9:27 am