Breast cancer: women screened under national programme rises to 1.9 million in 2010-11

Nearly 1.9 million women aged 45 and over were screened for breast cancer in England in 2010-11, Health and Social Care Information Centre figures show today.

*Regional information available from this publication


This compares to 1.3 million women screened in 2000-01, according to Breast Screening Programme, England, 2010-11.

The increase is partly due to the expansion of the programme to include a wider range of age groups, but population growth will also have affected the numbers screened. Originally women aged 50 to 64 were invited for screening, but in 2001 the age range was extended to include women aged 65 to 70. In 2007 a further extension of the programme to cover women aged 47 to 73 years was announced. Programme extensions are phased in across England over several years. 4

Today’s report includes data on; those invited for breast screening, coverage, uptake of invitations, outcomes of screening and cancers detected. It shows:

  • 2.3 million women aged 50 to 70 were invited for screening in 2010-11, compared to 2.2 million in 2009-10.
  • Uptake5 of routine invitations for women aged 50 to 70 in 2010-11 was 73.4 per cent, compared to 73.2 per cent in 2009-10.
  • Coverage6 among women aged 53 to 70 was 77.2 per cent at 31 March 2011, compared to 76.9 per cent at 31 March 2010.
  • 14,725 cancers from women aged 45 and over were detected through screening in 2010-11; a rate of 7.8 women per every 1,000 screened. This compares to 14,230 in 2009-10; a rate of 7.9 per 1,000 and to 8,345 in 2000-01; a rate of 6.4 per 1,000 women screened. Cancers from women detected in the last 10 years will have been affected by various factors, including population growth amongst the screening programme’s target population, the expansion of the screening programme to a wider range of age groups and the introduction of two-view mammography8.
  • Just over 40 per cent (5,945) of detected cancers in 2010-11 were invasive (meaning they had spread into surrounding, healthy tissues) and less than 15mm across. This size is usually too small to detect by hand.

Health and Social Care Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: “Our figures show the number of women screened for breast cancer in England as part of the national programme was approaching two million in 2010-11. The expansion of the programme is clear to see from the rise in numbers screened in a decade; from 1.3 million in 2000-01 to almost 1.9 million women in 2010-11.

“The information included in today’s report is vital to informing policy and monitoring the quality and effectiveness of screening services.”

A full copy of the report is at:


Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), formerly the NHS Information Centre, is now known by its formal, legal name; reflecting its broader social care responsibilities.
  2. We are England’s authoritative, central, independent source of health and social care information. We work with a wide range of health and social care providers nationwide to provide the facts and figures that help the NHS and social services run effectively. Our role is to collect data, analyse it and convert it into useful information which helps providers improve their services and supports users, including academics, researchers, regulators and policymakers in their work. We also produce a wide range of statistical publications each year across a number of areas including: primary care, health and lifestyles, screening, hospital care, population and geography, social care and workforce and pay statistics.
  3. Where statistics are presented for the number of women screened this refers to women aged 45 and over. The number of women screened includes all those invited through the screening programme as well as GP and self referrals.
  4. Under the NHS Breast Screening Programme all eligible women aged 50-70 are invited for screening every three years. In April 2001 the age range was extended to include women aged 65-70 and the last screening unit started inviting older women in April 2006. In December 2007 it was announced that the age at which women are screened would be extended again, incorporating nine screening rounds between the ages of 47 and 73 years. This will ensure all women receive their first invitation for screening before the age of 50. The programme is now phasing in the extension. This started in 2010 and full roll-out is expected to be completed after 2016.
  5. Uptake is defined as the percentage of women invited for screening in the year, who were screened adequately within six months of invitation.
  6. The coverage of the screening programme is the proportion of women eligible* at a particular point in time (31 March 2011 in this instance) who have had a test with a recorded result at least once in the previous 3 years. (*excluding those ineligible, i.e. those who have had a bilateral mastectomy). Coverage of the programme is currently assessed on the 53 to 70 age group, as all women aged 50-70 are currently invited for screening every three years and may be first called at any time between their 50th and 53rd birthdays.
  7. Cancers detected figures have been rounded to the nearest five.
  8. Two-view mammography is where two views of the breast are taken at every screen instead of just at the first screen. The introduction of two-view mammography is thought to have largely accounted for the increase in the cancer detection rate in 2002-03. See Breast Screening Programme, England, 2002-03: and NHS Breast Screening Programme Annual Review, 2004:
  9. For media enquiries please call 0845 257 6990 or email