Thousands of women are being urged to attend NHS breast screening appointments as new figures show that, despite a slight increase in uptake in the last year, over a third of women still did not take up the potentially lifesaving offer.
In 2022-23, a total of 1.93 million women aged 50 to 70 (64.6%) attended screening appointments (within six months of invitation) out of the 2.98 million invited to book a check-up – an increase in uptake on 2021-22 (62.3%).
However 35.4% of women did not attend their appointments following an invitation, increasing to 46.3% of women who were being invited for the first time.
The screening programme led to cancers being detected in 18,942 women across England in 2022-23, which otherwise may not have been diagnosed and treated until a later stage.
NHS England is calling for women to put their health at the top of their to-do list and come forward for breast screening when invited. The call comes following a major £70m Government investment in the Digital Transformation of Screening initiative to modernise screening services over the next three years.
The breast screening service will be one of the first to benefit, with an ambition to provide more tailored communications and more booking options for women, including online and call centre booking. This will make it easier than ever before for women to book and manage their appointments.
Published by NHS England, the NHS Breast Screening Programme, England 2022-23 report also found that uptake was highest in the South East at 68.0% and lowest in London at 55.4%.
Dr. Louise Wilkinson, Consultant Radiologist and National Specialist Advisor for Breast Screening at NHS England, said: “Around one in seven women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, and detecting it at an early stage helps give people the best chance of successful treatment.
“These figures show that 18,942 women were diagnosed and able to seek treatment because they attended breast screening check-ups last year. We know that lives are saved when cancers are caught early.”
Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: "It is vital that women come forward for breast screening when invited, as early cancer diagnosis can make all the difference.
“We’re making it as easy as possible to attend appointments and screening rates are rising, but there are still too many women missing out so I urge everyone receiving that text invite or that letter to book a check-up – it could be lifesaving.”
A woman’s risk of getting breast cancer goes up as they get older, with around four out of five breast cancers found in women over 50 years old.