Research Article

Hospital work load produced by breast-cancer screening programme run by trained non-medical staff.

Br Med J 1980; 281 doi: (Published 06 September 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;281:653
  1. W D George,
  2. R A Sellwood,
  3. D A Asbury,
  4. G Hartley


    In a feasibility study of mass population screening for breast cancer by annual clinical examination and mammography the findings of non-medical staff (nurses and radiographers) were used to estimate the hospital work load generated by such a programme. Among 2490 women who attended for the first time by invitation the rate of referral for a surgical opinion based on the findings of the non-medical staff was 7.9% and the biopsy rate 2.5%. In the second and third years referral rates fell to 4.3% and 2.7% respectively and the biopsy rates to 1.1% and 1.4%. The rates of referral and biopsy among 1203 women who referred themselves for screening were higher, but many self-referred women were symptomatic; those without symptoms had rates of referral and biopsy similar to those of the invited women. Extrapolation of these findings to a population of 200,000 in a typical health district showed that the hospital work load would be high in the first year of screening with 44 outpatient referrals per week and 14 biopsies. By the third year, however, only seven referrals and four biopsies a week could be expected. The work load would be reduced by a third if screening were confined to women over the age of 50.