Thursday 19 September 2019

UK breast cancer screening: 450,000 women missed out on check-up invitations due to error

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Alex Matthews-King

Jeremy Hunt has apologised and announced a public inquiry into errors in the NHS breast cancer screening programme in the UK – which meant as many as 450,000 women missed out on invitations for regular check-ups.

A technical issue dating back to 2009 was responsible for some women in England missing out on regular invitations for screening.

In a statement today, the health and social care secretary announced the "best estimate" was between 135 and 270 women who may have "had their lives shortened as a result" of missing out on screening.

"Tragically there are likely to be some women in this group who would be alive today if they had received invitations," he added.

These numbers are based on statistical estimates of the likely rates of cancers caught for every woman screened, however the independent review will establish exactly how many women were affected by reviewing case notes.

It will also try to determine the impact on their care and how the issues went unnoticed for the best part of a decade.

The issues was thought to affect women between the ages of 68 and 71,

Of the affected group, 309,000 women are believed to still be alive and will receive a letter by the end of May telling them they may have missed screening and inviting them for a check-up now.

Mr Hunt said that among this group, there are likely to be women who have recently had a terminal cancer diagnosis and "apologised wholeheartedly" on behalf of the government, NHS England and Public Health England for the failures.

The NHS currently screens women between the ages of 50 and 70 for cancer every three years.

More to follow...

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