Breast Cancer: Diagnosis

Department of Health written question – answered on 21st July 2015.

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Photo of Seema Kennedy Seema Kennedy Conservative, South Ribble

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department is taking to improve rates of early diagnosis of breast cancer.

Photo of Jane Ellison Jane Ellison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

To improve early diagnosis of cancer, the Department of Health and Public Health England (PHE, since 2013) have run numerous national Be Clear on Cancer public awareness campaigns, including two national campaigns on breast cancer in women over 70. PHE ran the first campaign early in 2014 and the second campaign is running from 13 July to 6 September 2015 to raise awareness of breast cancer symptoms, including non-lump symptoms and encourage women with symptoms to see their general practitioner (GP) without delay. The campaign is targeting women over 70 with the key message of “1 in 3 women who get breast cancer are over 70, so don’t assume you’re past it.” The campaign will run on television, radio, digital and out of home media. As with all Be Clear on Cancer campaigns, the impact of this campaign will be evaluated.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published an updated guideline “Suspected cancer: recognition and referral” on 23 June 2015, to ensure that it reflects latest evidence and can continue to support GPs to identify patients with symptoms of suspected cancer, including breast cancer and urgently refer them as appropriate.

Cancer screening remains an important way to detect cancer early, and women aged 50 to 70 are invited for free breast screening every three years. Women over 70 can request free three yearly screening. We have invested in a research trial to investigate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of extending the programme to women aged 47-49 and 71-73 and over two million women have now been randomised. Results from the trial will be available in the early 2020s.

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