Cancer Trends 38 - Breast, cervical and colorectal cancer 1994-2019

The latest trends report published by the National Cancer Registry focuses on cancer incidence, mortality, stage and survival for patients diagnosed with female breast cancer, cervical cancer and colorectal cancer. All three cancers have population-based screening programmes in Ireland.

National screening programmes organised by the Health Service Executive’s National Screening Service began inviting participants in 2000 (BreastCheck), 2008 (CervicalCheck) and 2012 (BowelScreen). Screening programmes aim to prevent or detect cancers early, therefore ensuring better outcomes for patients.

Key Findings:

  • All three cancers show favourable trends in incidence, stage, survival and/or mortality consistent with improvements in early detection and outcomes, with clear evidence for additional or more recent benefits of screening.
  • Almost a third of cervical cancer cases and a quarter of female breast cancer cases diagnosed during 2017-2019 were detected as a result of screening.  A smaller proportion of colorectal cancers were screen detected. 
  • The introduction of a population-based screening programme would be expected to decrease incidence in cervical and colorectal cancers, but not breast cancer. The incidence trends seen in our report are consistent with this.
  • Screen-detected cancer cases were, on average, detected at a substantially earlier stage than other cases diagnosed at the same ages. Survival has improved for all three cancers, with the biggest improvements in seen in the age-groups targeted by the national screening programmes.
  • Death rates of all three cancers have fallen significantly. Decreases in the age-groups targeted for screening have been more substantial than the overall decreases for all three cancers.

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