Breast screening cutting deaths by half

LORNA MARSH Routine breast cancer screening in East Anglia has reduced the number of deaths by nearly half, new research has revealed.


Routine breast cancer screening in East Anglia has reduced the number of deaths by nearly half, new research has revealed.

The Cancer Research UK study was the first of a series of investigations into the success of the national screening programme and compared the screening histories of 300 women in East Anglia who died of breast cancer with 600 women of the same age still alive.

It showed that screening in East Anglia was successful in reducing the number of deaths by 48pc, exceeding estimates found at trials conducted before the full programme was put into place in 1989.

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Professor Stephen Duffy, lead researcher and Cancer Research UK's professor of cancer screening, said: "The results of our study showed that the NHS breast cancer screening programme has been even more effective at saving lives than we predicted.

"This is the strongest evidence yet that screening programmes like this save lives.

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"We hope to collect data from other regions in the future, allowing us to compare programmes across the UK, bringing the best practices to areas that aren't performing as well."

Julietta Patnick, director of NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, said: "It is important we constantly evaluate the effectiveness of the programme and I am delighted that these latest findings show that breast screening can save lives.

"I hope the study will encourage women to make an informed choice to accept their invitation for screening."

The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer two days after prime minister Gordon Brown put his weight behind a range of screening programmes as a means of catching early diseases such as diabetes and heart problems, reducing the patient's need for treatment and saving the NHS money.

Dr John Battersby, director of public health for Norfolk PCT, said figures from 2006 showed that in Norfolk in the previous three years, about 81pc of eligible women were screened, compared to the national target of 70pc.

He said: "We have an excellent breast screening service, and as a PCT we are very proud of its success in helping to save women's lives in Norfolk."

Sharon Hulbert, spokesman for Norfolk cancer charity Big C, said it was particularly good news for the county which has more than the average number of screening units, thanks to the efforts of the charity and its supporters which have helped fund three mobile booths.

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