NHS Breast Screening Programme responds to the Review published by the Cochrane Collaboration

Statement published 18th October, 2006

"We have noted the data used by the Cochrane Library, taken from a variety of international screening studies. Earlier this year the Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer Screening carried out a comprehensive evaluation of the NHS Breast Screening Programme in England. [See Screening for Breast Cancer in England: Past and Future]

The Advisory Committee's evaluation concluded that for every 2000 women who are invited to join a programme over ten years;

  • Five will have their lives prolonged
  • One in eight would not have had their breast cancer diagnosed if they had not gone for screening

For lives to be saved breast screening must detect cancers in the early stages. We estimate that only eight out of 2000 women will receive treatment for breast cancer, as a result of having a cancer detected by screening, when they may have died from another cause before their symptoms presented.

The report also concluded that;

  • The NHS Breast Screening Programme saves 1,400 lives a year
  • Women who attend for screening are not only less likely to die from breast cancer, but also less likely to have a mastectomy than those who are not screened
  • Regular breast screening for women over the age of 50 years reduces mortality from breast cancer by about 35 per cent in those screened. This is based on evidence from randomised trials and the application of statistics produced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to the NHS Breast Screening Programme

The programme encourages women to make an informed choice about whether or not to attend for screening and provides balanced information to assist them. All women invited receive a leaflet clearly explaining the purpose of breast screening and the benefits and limitations of the test."

For further information, please contact the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes' press office on 020 7400 4499 or email .