Breast cancer screening coverage sees first increase in five years

 *NHS Digital must be cited as the source of this information.

*Regional data is available

Breast cancer screening coverage has increased for the first time since 2011, new NHS Digital1 figures show.2

At March 31, 2016, 75.5 per cent of women aged 53 to 70 who were eligible for breast cancer screening had a test with a recorded result within the last three years.

This is up slightly from 75.4 per cent at the same point in 2015, but the first increase in coverage since a peak of 77.2 per cent in 2011.

Today's report, Breast Screening Programme, England, 2015-16, also shows that uptake of routine invitations for breast cancer screening in women aged 50 to 70 has increased for the first time since 2011, from 71.3 per cent in 2014-15 to 72.1 per cent in 2015-16.

Under the NHS Breast Screening Programme, all eligible women aged 50 to 70 are invited for screening every three years, with the aim of detecting breast cancer at an early stage when there is a better chance of successful treatment.3

Today's NHS Digital report presents further findings on topics including coverage, uptake of invitations, outcomes of screening and cancers detected:


  •  Coverage for women aged 53 to 70 was above the 70 per cent national minimum standard5 in all regions except London, which reported coverage of 69.3 per cent. The highest coverage was in the East Midlands (79.8 per cent)
  •  At a local level, 120 of 150 local authorities reported coverage of 70 per cent or above for women aged 53 to 70


Invitations and uptake

  •  In 2015-16, 2.16 million women aged 45 and over were screened (including both those invited via the programme and self/GP referrals), compared to 2.11 million in 2014-15
  •  Uptake was highest among women in the 65-70 year age group (73.4 per cent) and lowest (66.9 per cent) among women aged 45-49
  •  Uptake at a regional level was above the national 70 per cent minimum standard in all regions except for London (64.9 per cent)


Cancers detected

  •  Of all women with cancers detected in 2015-16, 41.2 per cent (7,500 women) had invasive cancers too small to detect through self-examination, compared to 40.5 per cent (7,300 women) in 2014-15
  •  The prevalence of breast cancer increases with age. Cancer detection rates for women aged 50 to 54 were 6.3 per 1,000, compared with 11.1 per 1,000, aged 65 to 70


Read the full report at:

Interact with the 2015-16 data with the new data dashboard on the link above.

Discuss our findings on Twitter using #BreastScreen1516

Notes to editors

1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology provider for the health and care system. Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend. During the 2015/16 financial year, NHS Digital published 294 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better. NHS Digital is the new trading name for the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). We provide 'Information and Technology for better health and care'. Find out more about our role and remit

2. Percentages in this press release are rounded to one decimal place. Figures over a million are rounded to the nearest 10,000. Figures between 1,000 and a million are rounded to the nearest hundred.

3. Under the NHS Breast Screening Programme, all eligible women aged 50 to 70 are invited for screening every three years. Screening is intended to detect breast cancer at an early stage when there is a better chance of successful treatment. Because the programme is a rolling one, which invites women in a three-year cycle, not every woman will receive an invitation as soon as she is 50. Every woman registered with a GP in England should however receive her first invitation for screening before her 53rd birthday.

4. 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. A woman's eligibility depends on them being in the screening age range. They are ineligible if they have had a bilateral mastectomy.

5. For more information on the national minimum standards, visit:

6. A routine invitation for screening applies to women who were invited to attend routine breast screening having had at least one previous technically adequate screen within the NHS Breast Screening Programme as a result of an invitation or a self/GP referral within the last five years. Uptake refers to the proportion of women accepting invites. The NHS Breast Screening Programme is currently undertaking a randomised controlled trial on extending the programme to women aged 47 to 49 and 71 to 73. The trial started at selected pilot sites in 2009 and by the end of the 2015-16 collection year, 67 out of 80 breast screening units (83.8 per cent) were taking part in the trial.

7. The aim of breast screening is to reduce deaths by finding cancers, at an early stage, which may not be detectable through self-examination. Small cancers, in this report, are invasive cancers identified as being less than 15mm in diameter.

8. For media enquiries please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888