NHS England has launched a campaign to urge thousands of women to take up NHS breast screening appointments, as it has released figures showing that, while the highest number ever were screened last year, nearly four in 10 did not take up the potentially lifesaving offer.
Last year (2021-22) 1.97 million women aged 50 to 70 (62.3%) attended screening appointments (within six months of invitation) out of the 3.17 million invited to book a check-up – a slight increase on the previous year (61.8%), said NHS England.
The NHS invited record numbers of women to attend breast screening appointments in the last year (3.17m invitations) – the highest ever for a single year, according to the NHS Breast Screening Programme, England 2021-22 report.
The total number of women aged 50 to 70 screened in the year was 2.06 million, which is the highest volume ever screened in a single year – and includes those not responding directly to an invite.
While this is not of course something occupational health professionals would be directly involved in, OH teams can play an important role in promoting the value of breast screening within health promotion activities. They can also help by encouraging organisations to be flexible about allowing female employees time off work if they need it to attend screening appointments.
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New national figures on Cancer Survival in England have also shown that 91% of women diagnosed at an early stage of breast cancer, where the tumour is small (stage 1), have a survival rate of at least five years.
By comparison, the five-year survival rate for diagnosis at a late stage, where cancer has spread to other parts of the body (stage 4), is 39%.
NHS director of vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said: “Screening is an effective way to detect cancers at an earlier stage and it is in part thanks to our national breast screening programme that survival rates for breast cancer are so high.
“Today’s figures show more than 20,000 women were diagnosed and able to get treatment because they attended breast screening check-ups last year, yet nearly four in ten women aren’t taking up their screening invite and booking an appointment.
“We are sending out more breast screening invitations than ever before in an effort to save even more lives and we want more women to take up their screening offer when invited, so please if you have been invited – book an appointment at your local screening service or mobile unit as soon as possible,” he added.