If I may ask! – Why does free breast screening stop at the age of 60?

Email item Email item Print item Print item

If I may ask! - Why does free breast screening stop at the age of 60?“If one Googles for Breast Screening in Malta one would certainly find a lot of information such as the following:

Why have a National Breast Screening Programme?

One woman in eight will suffer from breast cancer at some point in her life. Most of these will be above 50 and for this reason we shall be inviting all women between 50 and 60 to come forward for screening over the next three years. If the disease is caught at an early stage, there is a greater chance of less invasive treatment and complete recovery. The service being provided is free of charge; it is now up to you to participate when you receive your appointment in the mail.

The Malta Breast Screening Programme provides free breast screening every three years for all women resident in the Maltese Islands aged 50 to 60 years. Around 14,000 women are being invited for screening each year.

So far so good! More details are given why these tests are offered to women of 50 years of age and the reasons seems to make sense, but I find it enormously difficult to fathom out why the tests are given up to 60 year old women! Then she has to go PRIVATE and pay from her pension!

When I was told this, I instantly smelled a rat and I asked if the doctor had invited her for a private test and you all can imagine the answer.

So I came home and did some research of my own. This was a week ago.

The article under the patronage of the Deputy Prime Minister states clearly that: (The Maltese) Government appointed a group of experts who have advised on setting up the Programme according to stringent quality standards as per European Guidelines.

I understand that a ‘Stringent standards’ cover all aspects but the EU standards on ages are not 50 to 60, but from 50 till many years. The group in Malta was appointed in late 2007 by the Health Care Services Division within the Ministry for Social Policy.

In 2003 it was already suggested by the EU: The European Union Council Recommendation of 2 December 2003 on cancer screening suggests the implementation of organised, population-based breast cancer screening programs based on mammography every other year for women aged 50 to 69 years, ensuring equal access to screening.

Population-based screening programmes assure more equity in access in comparison with other health initiatives such as opportunistic screening programmes.

In Holland we find: Financed by the Ministry of Health, nine regional screening organisations arrange and implement the Dutch national breast cancer screening programme, in which, every two years, all women from 50-75 years of age are invited for a free mammogram at one of the 62 screening points, of which 56 are mobile vans. We notice that it is offered every 2 years not like Malta every 3 years and up to 75 years old!

In the EU document ND7306954ENC_002_ we find: At that time evidence was growing that screening for breast cancer by means of mammography could reduce mortality from this disease, at least in women aged 50 years and over. (No mention of 60)

On Page 7 & P 17 of the same document one can find: • An international agency for research on cancer (IARC) expert working group, has reviewed the evidence and confirmed that service screening should be offered as a public health policy directed to women age 50-69 employing two-yearly mammography (IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Cancer Preventive Strategies 2002).

This is consistent with the European Council Recommendation of 2 December 2003 on Cancer Screening (OJ L 327/34-38).

In page 19 we have another new suggestion: For reasons of comparability and in accordance with European policy, data should be reported separately for the 50-69 age groups. Screening programmes inviting younger or older women can expand the tables in the protocol to incorporate additional age groups.

If one keeps on reading as I did and open page 400 one will find the following: Annex Screening tests which fulfil the requirements of the recommendation*:

• pap smear screening for cervical cancer precursors starting not before the age of 20 and not later than the age of 30;

• mammography screening for breast cancer in women aged 50 to 69 in accordance with European guidelines on quality assurance in mammography;

• faecal occult blood screening for colorectal cancer in men and women aged 50 to 74. *

I plan to email this to the Breast Screening group at mbsp.mfh@gov.mt but I also would like to share it with gozonews.com readers to hear their comments.”

Anthony Zammit,


  • Permalink: If I may ask! – Why does free breast screening stop at the age of 60?
  • You may also like...

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *