About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland provides an update of breast screening statistics to 31 March 2021. It includes Scottish Breast Screening Programme (SBSP) performance standards, attendance figures, cancer detection rates, biopsy results and screening outcomes.

Main points

For the three-year period 2018/19 - 2020/21:

  • 675,381 women aged 50-70 were invited to attend a routine breast screening appointment. This number is lower than might have been expected because the SBSP was paused between 30th March 2020 and 3rd August 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (2020/21: 151,977; average for the years 2017/18, 2018/19, and 2019/20: 259,940).
  • Of these women, 494,653 attended a routine breast screening appointment, equating to more than seven in ten women (73.2%) taking up their screening invitations.
  • Women from more deprived areas were less likely to attend breast screening: 61.2% from the most deprived areas compared with 80.8% in the least deprived areas, a difference of 19.6percentage points. This is similar to the previous period (19.7).

Breast screening percentage uptake by deprivation quintile 1,2 for Scotland (2018/19 - 2020/21)

  1. Deprivation categories are tied to postcodes; individuals without a valid postcode are not included in these figures.
  2. Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), most appropriate version of SIMD2020 applied to data.
  • The uptake rate in Scotland saw an increase to 73.2% in the most recent three-year period (2018/19 - 2020/21) when compared to the previous one (72.2%, 2017/18 - 2019/20).
  • One NHS board did not meet the acceptable uptake standard of 70%: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (68.5%), a recurring trend for the past decade. However, for the single year 2020/21, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde did meet this target with 73.8%.
  • Invasive cancer detection rates (ICDR) across the three-year period (2018/19 - 2020/21) for 50-52 (initial screen) and 53-70 (previously screened within five years) have remained relatively stable at 6.4 and 6.9 per 1,000 screened, respectively.
  • In 2020/21, ICDR rose across age groups when compared to the previous year: 50-52 was 6.5 per 1,000 women screened (vs. 6.2); 53-70 was 7.2 per 1,000 women (vs. 6.5).
  • For the last 10 years, 52.7% of breast cancer registrations in women aged 50-69 were detected through the breast screening programme, but this figure dropped to 39% in 2020.


For more detailed background on the Scottish Breast Screening Programme (SBSP), see the Data and Intelligence website (external link).

The reporting period (2020/21) includes the pause to the SBSP due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No individuals were invited to breast screenings during this period, causing a reduction in overall numbers screened. Services have worked hard to recover but have been under additional strain with limited capacity due to infection prevention and control measures including social distancing and staffing pressures.

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

More information on the SBSP dataset can be found on our data sources page.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 25 April 2023.

General enquiries

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

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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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