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J Med Screen. 1999;6(4):170-81.

Interventions to increase breast screening uptake: do they make any difference?

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Department of Public Health and Health Promotion, School of Epidemiology and Health Sciences, University of Manchester, UK.



Breast screening has an important role in improving survival from breast cancer through early detection and treatment. Increasing uptake of screening in areas of low uptake is important in improving the effectiveness of the national screening programme. This review looks at which initiatives to boost uptake have been successful.


To evaluate the effectiveness of the different interventions to increase breast screening uptake.


A systematic review of interventions to promote breast screening uptake was undertaken. Studies were included if uptake was used as an outcome measure of the intervention and if relevant to the UK screening programme.


Twenty eight studies were found among 25 citations. Interventions were grouped into "person directed", "system directed", "social network directed", and "multistrategy" categories. Most were person directed. These interventions were more likely to be effective in boosting uptake, be simple in design, and to have been evaluated by a randomized trial design. Evidence of effectiveness in the other groups is limited both by the number of studies and the study designs. A summary of the interventions reviewed is presented.


Simple, brief, and effective interventions exist to boost breast screening uptake. More complicated approaches are not necessarily any more effective. These findings also have implications for other population based screening programmes of the future. In inner city areas the best approach to raising uptake rates is likely to be multistrategy.

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