Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 September 2001
Objective: To present current scientific statements and practice on mammography, ultrasonography in pregnancy, and PSA within the Italian National Health Service (NHS).
Methods: Information on the three screenings was found in several position papers prepared by working groups at national and regional levels.
Results: For mammography the adjusted mortality rate for breast cancer increased in the last four decades and decreased in the last few years. Only 4.9% of women aged 50–70 years are covered by screening. In 1996 a consensus paper stated that biennial examination for women aged 50–69 years should be offered to reduce breast cancer mortality. A national program for breast cancer screening was launched under the responsibility of regional governments, but data about its implementation are not yet available. Regarding PSA screening, the results show that prostate cancer is the fourth most frequent neoplasm in males. A formal evaluation of prostate cancer screening was done in 1995 by the National Research Council and the Italian Association for Cancer Research; they did not recommend the NHS implement this service. In the National Health Plan 1998–2000, prostate cancer screening is not mentioned. So far, an organized and standardized screening program, based on routine PSA testing, does not exist in Italy. Nevertheless, a lot of PSA tests are performed at the clinical level to detect early prostate cancers. The results with regard to routine ultrasonography in pregnancy show that in 1996 the birth rate was 9.30 per 1,000 inhabitants, with 536,740 live births. In the period from 1992–94, the percentage of babies with a birth weight less than 2,500 gm and less than 1,500 gm were 5.85% and 0.91%, respectively. A formal screening program for detecting fetal growth retardation, based on the routine ultrasonography in the third trimester of the normal pregnancy, doesn't exist in Italy, but this test is widely performed. It is paid for under NHS coverage.
Conclusion: In 1998 the National Health Plan 1998–2000 stated that the NHS should offer only evidence-based preventive and diagnostic interventions and stressed the importance of appropriate use of health technology.