About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland provides an update of breast screening statistics to 31 March 2020. It includes NHS Breast Screening Programme performance standards, attendance figures, cancer detection rates, biopsy results and screening outcomes.

Main points

NHS Breast Screening key points for the three-year period 2017/18 - 2019/20;

  • 561,125 women aged 50 - 70 attended a routine breast screen appointment which equates to around 7 in 10 women (72.2%) taking up the invitation for screening.
  • Women from more deprived areas were less likely to attend for breast screening, with under 6 in 10 women (59.9%) from the most deprived areas going for screening compared with almost 8 in 10 (79.6%) women living in the least deprived areas, a difference of just under twenty percentage points (19.7). This pattern is also seen in other screening programmes.

Breast screening percentage uptake by deprivation category, Scotland: 2017/18 - 2019/20 combined

Bar chart presenting the Scottish breast screening uptake for each SIMD Quintile; 2017/18 - 2019/20.

Source: Scottish Breast Screening System (SBSS)

  • The uptake rate in Scotland was similar in the most recent 3-year period to the previous one (2% in 2017/18 – 2019/20 and 72.3% in 2016/17 – 2018/19). The results for both periods exceed the 70% minimum acceptable standard.
  • Two NHS Boards did not meet the acceptable uptake standard of 70%, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (67.2%) and NHS Lanarkshire (69.7%). This has been a recurring trend throughout the analysis of this dataset.
  • The invasive cancer detection rate for women aged 53 - 70 years who had previously been screened within five years of their last attendance was 6.8 per 1,000 women screened. This is similar to the previous three-year period 2016/17 – 2018/19 (7.0 per 1,000 women screened).
  • Over the last 10 years 52.7% of breast cancer registrations in women aged 50-69 years were detected through the breast screening programme.


The Scottish Breast Screening Programme (SBSP) is part of a UK-wide programme of free mammographic screening for breast cancer, which was set up in 1988 with the aim of reducing deaths from breast cancer. There has been full national coverage of the SBSP from 1991 and since then more than 4.1 million screening episodes and in excess of 32,500 breast cancers diagnosed.

Within Scotland, data are collected by each of the six screening centres (which are supported by 19 mobile units) and retained on the SBSP Information System. Currently, all women aged between 50 and 70 are invited for a routine breast screening examination every 3 years.

The definitions of the breast screening acceptable and achievable performance measures can be found within Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s breast screening standards.

Further information

Data from this publication are available from the data files section at the top of this page. For more information on breast screening see the breast screening section of the Data and Intelligence website (external website). For related topics, please see the cancer pages (external website) on the Data and Intelligence website

The next release of this publication is scheduled for April 2022. However, given the current pause on breast screening (external website) due to the coronavirus outbreak, this proposed date may be affected.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs (external website). NHS Performs is a website that brings together a range of information on how hospitals and NHS Boards within NHSScotland are performing.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.cancerstats@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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