The Public Health Agency (PHA) has welcomed the results of the Independent Review of Breast Screening, published today [30 October], and is urging all women to continue to attend for screening when invited as it has been proven to save lives.
Dr Adrian Mairs, Consultant in Public Health, PHA, and Quality Assurance Director for the Northern Ireland Breast Screening Programme, said: “This independent review has concluded that the UK breast screening programmes have significant benefit and should continue. It is vitally important for women to have access to clear information about breast screening. The review looked at both the benefits and the risks associated with the screening programme and will help women make an informed choice about attending for breast screening.
“The report confirms that screening reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer by around 20%.
“It also highlights the fact that screening will identify some breast cancers that will never cause any harm to women during their lifetime, this is known as over-diagnosis. It is estimated that for every death prevented by breast screening three women will be over-diagnosed with breast cancer. However, it is not possible to tell in advance which cancers will go on to harm a woman and which ones won’t, so all are therefore treated.”
The breast screening programme in Northern Ireland is available to all women aged 50 and over. Women aged 50-70 are invited to attend every three years. Women over 70 can contact their local breast screening unit directly, or through their GP, and arrange an appointment.
Dr Mairs added: “The PHA wants to reinforce the message that regular breast screening reduces the risk of death from breast cancer.
“I would encourage all women who are invited for breast screening to attend. I would also encourage women over the age of 70 to contact their local breast screening unit, or their GP, to ensure they can continue to attend for breast screening.
“Many women don’t realise that the risk of breast cancer continues to increase with age. Prevention and early detection are key to saving lives. Breast screening remains the best way we have of detecting breast cancer at an early stage when treatment can be more effective,” Dr Mairs concluded.
Contact PHA Communications on 028 9055 3663.
Notes to the editor
The full report can be found at www.cruk.org.uk/breastscreeningreview
In Northern Ireland eligible women aged 50 – 70 are invited for breast screening every three years. Women who are older than 70 are encouraged to contact their local breast screening unit to arrange an appointment every three years.
Breast screening is a method of detecting breast cancer at an early stage. It involves taking a low dose x-ray of each breast – a mammogram. The mammogram can detect small changes in breast tissue which may indicate cancers which are too small to be felt either by the woman herself, or by a doctor. Small cancers are less likely to require mastectomy; or chemotherapy.