Cutting screening age considered premature

by Claire Sims WOMEN aged between 40 and 50 will not have breast screening unless there is clear evidence that it is beneficial.

Leading cancer specialists in the UK have called for all women to undergo annual screening from the age of 40 instead of having to wait until they are 50.

Consultant surgeon Roger Allsopp, who was representing the views of the local breast screening team, said that it would be premature to introduce it for that age group in Guernsey.

‘The evidence as it stands is not convincing and there may be harmful effects in annual mammograms on younger breasts.’

He said that it was an extremely complex issue and that major research was still in progress.

‘Once this is concluded, if there is clear evidence that screening between 40 and 50 offers a significant benefit, then we will look at the feasibility of its introduction in Guernsey.’

He said that the resource implications were considerable. A new breast screening unit with a second mammography machine and at least two additional radiographers and an additional radiologist consultant would be needed.

decide if they want to spend money in that direction,’ he said.

Some 10,000 women are on the local breast screening programme, with more than 4,000 screened a year. Between 800 and 1,000 patients have a mammogram through the symptomatic clinic if they are over 35.

Mr Allsopp said that lowering the age to 40 would double the work load.

He said that Guernsey had a better breast screening service than the UK, offering it every two years with two views taken compared to every three years in the UK.

Screening from the age of 40 would have to be done every year because of the fast-growing nature of the tumors that younger women tend to develop and because it was hard to pick up changes in their denser tissue.

In the UK, 50- to 64- year-olds are screened although this is being increased to 69 with voluntary option from 70.

Women in Guernsey are screened from 50 to 75 years old with a voluntary option after that.

Mr Allsopp said that this was very important as incidents of breast cancers increased with age. Because of more women being screened, it detected almost 50% of cancers in Guernsey compared to 25% in the UK.

Screening is also offered locally to women under 50 with a higher risk such as those with a mother or sister who have developed the disease pre-menopause.

Close family are offered annual screening for 10 years prior to the age when their relative developed the disease. Mr Allsopp said that this had been very effective.

There was also a rapid access breast clinic to which women of any age could go if they had breast problems.

‘We try very hard to see within two weeks anyone who is suspected a having breast cancer and investigate fully.’

Some UK specialists say that women should be encouraged to pay £150 for an annual mammogram if the NHS can not afford it.

‘The problem is that mammograms in America are a commercial undertaking and are carried out on the ones who can afford it in a sporadic way,’ said Mr Allsopp. ‘I don’t think that ad hoc mammography is the answer.’

He said that for screening to be effective, it needed to rover the whole

Population and be free and therefore paid for by the public. ‘it would be a considerable amount of money,’ he said.

R A multidiscipline breast cancer conference for medical professionals is being held by the Board of Health at the OGH Hotel on 12 and 13 March.

The speakers will be leaders in their fields from the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands.

There will also be a slide seminar in breast pathology.

The conference costs £200 or £125 for trainees, nurses and retired practitioners.

Book online at or e-mail

 Soroptimist International of Guernsey is holding a fund-raising luncheon for the Pink Ladies at the Duke of Richmond Hotel on Sunday 1 February. Sylvia Denton, the Royal College of Nursing president and a former breast care nurse, will be the speaker. Tickets cost £15 for a three-course lunch and coffee, assembling at 12pm .for 12.3Opm.

Call Heather Gibbs on 247153 or Angela Hood, 254871, to book.

(Reproduced courtesy Guernsey Press and Star)
Article dated 16 January 2004

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