Breast Screening
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BreastCheck Reaches More Women and Increases Cancer Detection Rate

92,061 Women Receive Free Mammogram in 2008 and Early 2009

In 2008 and early 2009 BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme provided free mammograms to 92,061 women aged 50 to 64. Since the screening programme began, BreastCheck has provided almost 560,000 mammograms to over 276,000 women and detected over 3,500 breast cancers.

Of the 92,061 women screened, 4,119 were re-called for further assessment. Six hundred and seventy two women were diagnosed with breast cancer, representing 7.3 cancers per 1,000 women screened, compared to six cancers per 1,000 women screened in 2007. The overall rate of acceptance of invitation to screening was 77.4 per cent, in excess of the Programme target of 70 per cent.

Commenting on the results, Tony O’Brien, Chief Executive Officer of the National Cancer Screening Service said: “During 2008 and early 2009, BreastCheck provided a fully quality assured mammogram to the highest number of women since the Programme began. Ninety two thousand and sixty one women aged 50 to 64 accepted their BreastCheck invitation, representing a 38 per cent increase on the previous year. In addition, BreastCheck was introduced to all remaining counties in the expansion area during 2009, within 22 months of initial expansion to the southern and western regions of the country. Since screening began in the southern and western regions in December 2007 to October 2009, over 67,000 women have received a BreastCheck mammogram and I am delighted that we can now offer a truly national breast screening service to women in Ireland”.

In 2008, 39,802 of the women screened were new to the Programme and 52,259 women had previously received at least one BreastCheck mammogram. The uptake of first screening invitation continues to be highest in the youngest age group, 50 to 54, and the majority of women screened for the first time are in this age bracket. For subsequent invitations (women who have attended a BreastCheck appointment previously), there is little difference between the age groups, with a high rate of uptake recorded across all age groups.

Uptake of invitation to screening at 77.4 per cent remains above the Programme target of 70 per cent, however uptake rates are continually and carefully monitored to ensure the high level of acceptance of invitation to screening is maintained. The acceptance rate among women invited for subsequent screening is greater than 90 per cent i.e. of every 10 eligible women re-invited for screening by BreastCheck, nine women return. This reflects well on satisfaction of women with the screening experience.

Commenting on the cancer detection rate, Chief Executive Officer Tony O’Brien said: “Of women invited for screening in 2008, 672 were diagnosed with a cancer, with 527 of these invasive. This represents a major increase in cancer detection reflecting national expansion of the Programme. Just under half of all invasive cancers detected were less than 15mm, with a corresponding better prognosis.”

BreastCheck operates a fully digital mammography screening service. While there has been some controversy recently regarding the potential harmful effects of over-diagnosis of DCIS* through mammographic screening, our results show that for women invited in 2008 the number of low grade DCIS detected represented less than three per cent of total cancers detected, or 2.1 per 10,000 women screened. Evidence has shown that many intermediate and high grade DCIS progress to invasive cancers over time if left untreated. These represent the majority of DCIS detected by BreastCheck.   


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