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Scottish Breast Screening Programme


NHS National Services Scotland ISD Scotland & NHS National Services Scotland

Scottish Breast Screening Programme

The UK was one of the first countries in the world to establish a national population-based breast screening programme. There are six static screening centres in Scotland supported by nineteen mobile units. The first screening centres became operational in 1988 and in 2008 the NHS Breast Screening Programme in Scotland celebrated its 20th Anniversary; full national coverage was attained in 1991.

The UK National Health Service Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP), a UK-wide programme of free mammographic screening for breast cancer, was introduced in 1988 following a recommendation from a working party established by the four UK Departments of Health and chaired by Sir Patrick Forrest. The working party concluded that there was evidence that screening for breast cancer could reduce mortality from the disease by up to 30%.

In Scotland, women aged 50-64 years were invited for a routine screen once every three years until 2003-04, when the age range for invitation was extended to include women up to the age of 70 years. This expansion was phased in throughout the country over a three year round of screening. Women over 70 years are still screened three yearly on request.

Up until 2007-08, the screening method used in Scotland consisted of two mammographic views at first screen and one view at subsequent screens. In Better Cancer Care, An Action Plan the Scottish Government affirmed its commitment to the implementation of two view screening at every screening appointment by April 2010. In 2008-09 a phased roll out of two views commenced and was completed in March 2010.

Within Scotland (as part of the Scottish Breast Screening Programme) information and performance data are collected by each of the six screening centres and compiled by ISD on an annual basis. The NHSBSP Performance Standards, which minimum and target standards are specified, are the means by which this information is evaluated. The NHSBSP Performance Standards have been published based on women aged 50-64 to 31 March 2009. To reflect the expansion of the age range, they have been extended to include women up to the age of 70. To allow for trend analysis, NHSBSP Performance Standards based on women aged 50-70 have been produced back to 1 April 2004. Previously published trends in NHSBSP Performance Standards to 31 March 2009, for women ages 50-64, are available in the Tables and Charts section below.

The report from the most recent National Statistics publication can be found on our Publications page.

Breast screening statistics

Main points

NHS Breast Screening Programme performance standards, for the three year period 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2016:

  • The uptake rate in Scotland has fallen slightly by 0.6 percentage points from 72.5% in 2012-15 to 71.9% in 2013-16. The results for both periods exceed the 70% minimum performance standard. The overall trend shows a slight reduction from 74.9 in 2006-09.
  • All but four NHS Boards achieved the 70% minimum performance standard for uptake: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (67.5%), NHS Lanarkshire (68.6%) and NHS Fife (69.0%) and NHS Lothian (69.3%).
  • The invasive cancer detection rate, for women aged 53-70 years who have previously been screened within five years of their last attendance, was 6.4 per 1,000 women screened. This is a slight decrease from the previous three-year period 2012-15 figure (6.5 per 1,000 women screened).
  • The 2015/16 data for Scotland are 9% incomplete due to the Breast Screening Programme implementing a new Scottish Breast Screening System. Data should be complete for 2016/17.

In 2015/16:

  • All of the 13 NHS Breast Screening programme minimum performance standards were achieved and all but two of the 11 targets were met (uptake rate and recalled for assessment rate).
  • There were 1392 cases of screen-detected breast cancer diagnosed in woman of all ages.
  • Of these, 81.3% (1,132 cases) of cancers detected were invasive, of which nearly three out of five (55.5%) were less than 15 mm in size and unlikely to be detected by physical examination.

Tables and charts

NHSBSP Performance Standards

Historical trends in NHSBSP Performance Standards (based on previous age range of 50-64 years).

Deprivation screening statistics

  • Deprivation Download Excel file [41kb] 1 year percentage uptake by deprivation category from 1 April 2003 to 31 March 2012.
  • Deprivation Download Excel file [34kb] 3 year percentage uptake by deprivation category from 1 April 2003 to 31 March 2012.

Historical trends in uptake by deprivation category (based on women 50-64 years).

  • Deprivation Download Excel file [35kb] 1 year percentage uptake by deprivation category from 1 April 1990 to 31 March 2008.
  • Deprivation Download Excel file [33kb] 3 year percentage uptake by deprivation category from 1 April 1990 to 31 March 2008.

Other breast screening statistics

  • Attendance Download Excel file [27kb] number of women attending screening by appointment type from 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2016.
  • Uptake by type of invitation Download Excel file [29kb] percentage uptake by type of invitation from 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2016.
  • Biopsy results Download Excel file [38kb] pre-operative diagnosis and diagnostic open biopsies rates from 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2016.
  • Outcomes Download Excel file [43kb] screening outcomes from 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2016.


Useful links

Breast cancer statistics: detailed incidence and mortality data, lifetime risk, prevalence and survival statistics.

NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP): general information and publications relating to breast screening in the UK.

National Services Division (NSD), which has responsibility for providing the Scottish Breast Screening Programme.

Data Management (ISD), which has responsibility for processing the breast screening data, this describes what processes are carried out in data management.

Information about breast screening

Information on the development and major policy changes relating to Breast Screening since the start of the programme available here: Milestones table Download pdf file[25kb].

Breast screening explained by Health Scotland.

Breast Screening Data Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions relating to the Breast Screening Programme data Download pdf file[12kb].


Glossary of breast screening terms relating to the data on this website Download pdf file[78kb].

Details of data sources

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