Breast Screening Is Not Detrimental To The Survival Of Women With Interval Cancers

March 13, 1998

(Survival rates from interval cancer in NHS breast screening programme)

The NHS breast screening programme invites women aged 50-64 years for screening every three years. In this programme the term ëinterval cancer' is applied to a breast cancer occurring within the three years of a screening test with negative results. A higher than expected number of interval cancers have been reported to the NHS breast screening programme and there is conflicting evidence on whether the survival rates of women with interval cancers are different from those with breast cancers occurring in an unscreened population.

In this week's BMJ, Collins et al report on their study undertaken in North West England between 1988-91. Seventy three interval cancers and 565 cancers in women who were not screened, were diagnosed during the study period. The authors found that there was no significant difference between the survival rates of women in the two categories.

Collins et al conclude that although it is reassuring that breast screening has not been detrimental to the survival of those women who had interval breast cancers, minimising the occurrence of interval cancers must remain a high priority, if substantial reductions in mortality are to be achieved.


Mr Stuart Collins, Information Scientist, Centre for Cancer Epidemiology, University of Manchester, Christie Hospital NHS Trust, Manchester


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