About the national screening programmes

The purpose of mass examinations against cancer (screening) is to detect cancer or precursor to cancer before the disease spreads. When treated early, the chances of curing the disease is often better.
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In 2001, the Cancer Registry of Norway was designated by the Ministry of Health and Care Services to be a national screening center in Norway. As of today, the institute is responsible for operating national screening programs for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Read more about BreastScreen Norway, CervicalScreen Norway and ColorectalScreen Norway.

Prerequisites for implementing mass screenings

Cancer screening aims to detect precancerous conditions or cancer before they cause symptoms or problems. However, it's not feasible or advisable to implement screening for all types of cancer. There are some prerequisites that should be met before implementing cancer screening.

In 1968, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of 10 prerequisites that should be fulfilled to initiate screening. In 2014, the Norwegian Directorate of Health proposed to expand these with six new criteria.

Some of the criteria include:

  • The disease must constitute a significant public health issue.
  • The disease must be detectable by a test before symptoms appear. It's important to note that this test does not provide a diagnosis but categorizes apparently healthy individuals into two groups: those who likely don't have the disease and those who should undergo further evaluation.
  • There must be a treatment available for early-detected disease, so early diagnosis improves the patient's prognosis.
  • The healthcare system must have the capacity to treat all individuals diagnosed through mass screening effectively.

If you'd like to read more about the prerequisites for cancer screening, you can find this information in Cancer in Norway's special issue 2020 (Page 12).

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