Results of breast cancer screening

The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has apologised for an IT error which resulted in 450,000 women failing to receive letters inviting them to routine breast cancer screenings.

All women registered with a GP and aged between 50 and 70 should be automatically invited for breast cancer screening every 3 years.  They should receive their final invitation for screening between the ages of 68 and 71.

A ‘technical glitch’ dating back to 2009 was responsible for over 450,000 women aged between 68 and 71 failing to receive invitation for screening letters.

Jeremy Hunt has admitted that, based on statistical estimates of the rates of cancer caught in women screened, around 270 lives have been shortened as a result. He has confirmed that there are many women who may have potentially had their cancer caught at an earlier stage had they had the screening. Jeremy Hunt said that “Tragically there are likely to be some people in this group who would be alive today had this failure not happened”.

The government has today ordered an independent inquiry and confirmed that women affected will be contacted, with some likely to be owed compensation.  An apology will be provided.

All those under 75 will automatically be sent an invitation to a catch-up screening. For women aged 72 and over, a helpline to decide if a screening is appropriate will be available.

Sadly, families now face the possibility that their loved one may have missed the opportunity for earlier diagnosis and a better outcome.