§ Dr. Gibson
To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the Government intend to extend the breast screening programme to women over the age of 70.
§ Ms Blears
There is little research evidence to show whether or not population screening in the over 70s is effective in reducing mortality. What little evidence there is suggests that screening in this way may not be effective and could even do more harm than good to some women. However, for some individual women there will always be a clear benefit in screening. Women aged over 70 will be offered free three yearly screening on request when the extension to women aged 65 to 70 is fully implemented, as are women aged 65 and over now. Women who have already participated in the programme will be informed of this right after the age of 70.
The availability of screening for older women is widely publicised. In particular, the national health service breast screening programme has worked with Age Concern to encourage older women to request screening.