Breast cancer screening for women over 70
Women aged over 70 are not routinely invited for breast screening. However they are still entitled to a breast screening and can call their local breast screening unit to request one every three years. Despite the recent controversy surrounding breast cancer screening women are still invited to choose whether they wish to be screened.
Around 1,300 lives are saved every year by mammography, which women are invited to undergo between the ages of 50 to 70, said the review, which recommends that screenings should continue.
But 4,000 women will undergo unnecessary treatment, including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, for a cancer they would not otherwise have known about and which would have done them no harm in their lifetime.
The government is embarking on an immediate revision of the leaflet which invites women for screening, said national cancer director Sir Mike Richards, so that women can weigh up the benefits against potential harm and make their own decision as to whether to be screened.
Much has changed since the early days of screening,although the numbers of advanced cancers have not dropped as a result of screening, he says – which was the main reason for setting up the programmes. “Screening has not reduced the number of advanced cancers per 100,000 women, and when that’s the case, screening cannot work,”
Three breast cancer charities in a joint statement said they urged women to go for screening. Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Campaign and Breast Cancer Care said the review had provided much needed clarity.
“This is good news for women as they can now be assured that breast screening can be beneficial,” they said. “However, some women who attend screening may be diagnosed and treated for a cancer that may not have caused them harm in their lifetime. To ensure women understand what this may mean for them it is important they have access to clear and balanced information.