Published: Fri, May 04, 2018
Medical | By

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

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

That revelation was accompanied by the figure of up to 270 women who may have died as a result of this failure.

UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced an independent inquiry into the failings, attributed to a computer algorithm error.

Her family said they believe she might have lived longer had her disease been caught earlier.

Hunt said, "The latest estimates I have received from PHE is that as a result of this, between 2009 and the start of 2018, an estimated 450,000 women aged between 68 and 71 were not invited to their final breast screening".

Speaking today in the House of Commons, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt apologised "wholeheartedly and unreservedly" for the error on behalf of the government, the NHS and Public Health England.

"Tragically there are likely to be some people in this group who would have been alive today if the failure had not happened".

But it means that up to 800 women may have been saved from harm by not sending them their final screening appointment letter, as they avoided possible reduction in their life expectancy through unnecessary treatment.

"For those women who will have gone on to develop breast cancers that could have been picked up earlier through screening, this is a devastating error".


The women were enrolled in AgeX, a major NHS trial created to discover whether an extra screening would protect older women from breast cancer.

The rate of cancer diagnosis within one year of a negative mammogram was small (5.9 per 10,000 screenings), but those cancers were more likely to have poor prognosis than cancers diagnosed after a positive mammogram (43.8% vs. 26.9%).

If you don't want to be invited for breast screening in the future, contact your GP or your breast cancer screening unit and ask to be removed from their list of women eligible for screening. When was the last time you got a breast scan?

"Clearly we're very sorry for what happened", the Medical Director said, "and it is a system that we provide along with colleagues from NHS England, the Department of Health".

Screening programmes are run separately across the United Kingdom and so this issue only affects women registered with a GP in England. Many are anxiously playing a waiting game until the letters arrive, not knowing if they've been affected.

It has emerged 450,000 women were not invited to appointments as they should have been, and as a result up to 270 maybe have "had their lives shortened", according to the BBC. Others are extremely anxious about when their letters will arrive and how long it will take to get screened.

Hunt apologised "wholehearted and unreservedly" to the women and their families and announced an independent review to investigate the scandal, but the medical profession has warned the implication for Global Positioning System will potentially be "significant".

"We have carried out urgent work to identify the problem and have fixed it".

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