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Opportunities for improvement of the breast cancer population screening programme

The Health Council concludes that adjustments to the Dutch breast cancer screening programme will not improve outcomes at this time. However, the council does expect that screening can be significantly improved within a few years through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), risk stratification and new imaging techniques.

Women aged between 50 and 75 years are invited every two to three years to take part in breast cancer screening, which consists of taking X-rays of the breasts (mammography). At the request of the State Secretary for Health, the council assessed whether the screening programme could be further improved within the current capacity of the programme.

The Council concludes that the screening programme is achieving its goal of reducing breast cancer mortality. At present, the Council sees no opportunities to improve the programme. Adjusting the age limits of the target group, for example lowering the start age to 45 years, would not improve outcomes within the available capacity.

The Council expects there will be sufficient scientific evidence to support for the implementation of AI, risk stratification and new imaging techniques such as tomosynthesis. As evidence for AI is developing fast, the Council recommends making preparations for the implementation of AI now.