New research has suggested that the UK should adopt a programme of targeted, risk-based screening for breast cancer in a bid to reduce overdiagnosis and save the NHS money.
A study led by researchers at University College London found that there were a range of benefits to not asking women at a low risk of the disease to come for screening.
They found that it would improve the quality of life for women following screening, would reduce overdiagnosis and save resources, but while still maintaining the benefits of screening by ensuring it was targeted at women of a greater risk of developing breast cancer.
Dr Nora Pashayan, lead author of the study, explained that breast cancer screening as it is now has negative, as well as positive, effects. While it has reduced deaths from breast cancer, it has also resulted in some women having an unnecessary diagnosis and treatment for the disease, she explained:
“Offering screening according to women’s risk level could improve the efficiency of the screening programme and reduce its harms…”
At the moment, all women aged between 50 and 69 are invited for a digital mammogram every three years. Take-up for this is currently at 72 per cent.
Dr Pashayan explained that the aim would be to ensure that the 72 per cent of women who come for regular screening are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Of course, there would be nothing to stop any women who weren’t called for screening on the NHS to use a breast home inspection device.
Earlier this year, an IT error was uncovered that meant up to 450,000 women in the UK had missed their final routine screening appointment because they were not sent their invitation for an appointment.