Hundreds of women 'died early' after cancer scan mix-up

Sandra Little Brown

A recent report on the NHS found that the number of women who accepted invitations to breast screenings had fallen to 71%, a 10-year low.

Women's lives are now being lost because of algorithms.

"Our current best estimate, which comes with that there may be between 135 and 270 women who had their lives shortened as a result", he said.

Early diagnosis is "absolutely essential" according to Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now.

England's breast-screening failure follows unrelated news in Ireland last week that more than 200 cervical cancer test results should have resulted in earlier intervention.

The 77-year-old called on ministers to explain how the situation could have been allowed.

"Somebody somewhere along the line has made a massive error - we are talking 450,000 letters that should have gone out".

The IT mistake, which dates from 2009 but was only discovered in January, meant that women aged 68 to 71 were not sent letters inviting them to their final screening appointment under the NHS screening programme. "With cancer care costs rapidly increasing, culturally appropriate strategies are urgently needed to address this problem".

Hunt ordered an independent review into the programme, its IT system and processes, saying: "Many in this House will also have legitimate questions that need answering: why did the algorithm failure occur in the first place, and how can we guarantee it does not happen again?"

Despite his shock, Mr Gough said he admired the Health Secretary for "getting up and not trying to hide the truth".

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"I am glad the truth has come out, and I just hope that people take more notice of these glitches", he said.

Of the half a million women who should have been invited to a scan, an estimated 309,000 are still alive.

"And those people have got families, friends and lives to lead, and they have been cut short".

Trixie Gough, 76, from Norfolk, died in 2015 from breast cancer.

"All of that she missed because she didn't get diagnosed and she didn't know anything about it until a year too late", he said.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the inquiry will examine how the failings were allowed to continue for nearly a decade. Staff shortages have been a concern for many years.

Dr Jenny Harries, PHE deputy medical director said: "Local breast screening services are now working closely with NHS England and PHE to ensure that all of the women affected are contacted and offered the opportunity for a screen".

"Others are extremely anxious about when their letters will arrive and how long it will take to get screened".

"Why didn't they pick up that I hadn't had a mammogram?"

"Wealth in our society is a complex construct, including not only how much money a person earns, but also the generosity of their health insurance benefits, the savings and assets that they can pull from in a time of crisis, and the flexibility of their commitments at work and at home", said UNC Lineberger's Katherine Reeder-Hayes, MD, MBA, MSc, an assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine Division of Hematology/Oncology and the study's senior author.

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