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Wolfson Institute of Population Health

Post-pandemic breast screening: should we focus on uptake?

A doctor inspects a patient's mammograms

A study estimating numbers of breast cancers detected through the NHS screening programme in England using different round lengths (time between screens) and uptake rates has found that a 4-year round length with uptake of 62% (as observed with timed appointments in London before the pandemic) would result in 295 screen detected cancers per 10,000 invited, compared with 222 cancers with a 3-year round and uptake of 46% (as observed in London during the pandemic recovery period). The NHS breast screening programme in England invites around three million asymptomatic women and detects around 19,000 breast cancers each year. The programme currently issues open invitations, following which women have to actively make an appointment. This leads to lower uptake than the previous policy of sending an appointment date, time, and place with the invitation, although it means faster coverage of the eligible population by invitation, and therefore closer adherence to a round length of three years. Authors conclude that it may be more productive for early detection to focus on uptake, rather than round length, in the programme’s recovery from the pandemic.

Recovery of the breast screening programme following pandemic-related delays: Should we focus on round length or uptake? Stephen W Duffy, Sue Hudson, Daniel Vulkan, Thomas E Duffy, Katie Binysh. J Med Screen 2022. 



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