Wednesday, 23 May, 2018

Breast cancer screening scandal: 100s of women may have died

Consultant examines mammogram images for signs of breast cancer Consultant examines mammogram images for signs of breast cancer
Diane Mills | 03 May, 2018, 16:05

The computer error - which dates back to 2009 - had meant 450,000 women aged between 68-71 were not invited to potentially life-saving breast cancer screening appointments.

It is now estimated that between 135 and 270 women may have had "their lives shortened as a result".

The issue was resolved on April 1, 2018 to ensure that women would receive their invitations.

"Our current best estimate, which comes with caveats... is that there may be between 135 and 270 women who had their lives shortened as a result". Breast Cancer Now CEO Delyth Morgan told the Guardian it was "beyond belief" that the issue continued for a decade.

The error that may have cost hundreds of lives was caused by a trial meant to extend lifesaving screening to even more women.

This is not just by a lack of awareness but also the fact that cancer screenings are very low in the priority of things for these rural women.

He said the error was a serious failure of the screening program, which is run by Public Health England and tests are carried out by NHS hospitals.

In England, black women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer as white women, according to a 2016 study by Cancer Research UK and Public Health England.

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Around 450,000 women in England missed out on a routine breast screening appointment due to an NHS failure to send invitations.

Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health and social care, announced the news, as well as an independent inquiry to establish the clinical impact of the failure.

Any woman concerned that they might have breast cancer can see their GP and be referred for a screening.

Hunt also apologised "wholeheartedly and unreservedly for the suffering caused".

Hunt responded: "I'm afraid she is absolutely right and the truth is we do have a quality assurance programme and it failed to pick this problem up for far too long so we need to understand why that happened".

In a statement issued today by the the PHA, a spokesperson said: "We have taken this opportunity to review the systems and processes, through which women are invited for screening in Northern Ireland, to ensure that they are in line with our policy here".

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Britain, with more than 55,000 women diagnosed every year and almost 1,000 dying of the disease every month, according to non-governmental organization Breast Cancer Now. Around four in every five women can expect to survive, thanks in part to the early diagnosis provided by the national screening service.

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