United Kingdom: 450000 women missed out on breast cancer test

Women should be tested for breast cancer at age 30 experts say

He went on to say that their current best estimate was that there may "be between 135 and 270 women who had their lives shortened as a result".

Up to 270 patients may have lost their lives needlessly due to an IT error that caused 450,000 women to miss cancer screenings, the health secretary has today announced.

The "serious failure" in the code governing the NHS's national breast screening programme occurred in 2009, but only came to light when Public Health England (PHE) analysed the service earlier this year. They found that two years after a diagnosis with breast cancer, 58 percent of black women reported a negative financial impact of cancer, compared with 39 percent of white women.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed on Wednesday that 450,000 women aged 68 to 71 had not been invited to their final routine screening.

"There has always got to be some blame, these things don't just happen ... it is never the computer that goes wrong, it is the person that put the information in or took it out", he said.

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.

Thousands of women caught up in the NHS breast cancer screening programme failure have called helplines in the last 24 hours seeking help and demanding why the error was not spotted sooner.

Mr Hunt said all women affected would be contacted by letter by the end of May and those under 72 would receive an appointment for a catch-up mammogram.

Having breast cancer placed a significantly greater financial strain on black women than white women, according to study by researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"I feel extremely sad for the women affected by this colossal administrative disaster really", she said.

"Irrespective of when the incident started, the fact is for many years oversight of our screening programme has not been good enough".

"All of these women will be contacted by the end of May 2018". Others are extremely anxious about when their letters will arrive and how long it will take to get screened. Hunt said that this highlighted that some women on the AgeX trial were not receiving an invitation to their final screening as a 70 year old.

Response: Future research should aim to identify additional risk factors for diagnosis of poor prognosis breast cancer despite regular mammography screening, beyond breast density alone.

Dr Jenny Harries, PHE deputy medical director apologised for error which she said was a "complex IT problem".

A helpline has been set up for anyone who is concerned that they might have been among those missed - 0800 169 2692. "We have gone back and fixed all these glitches and audited that, so women can be assured going forward that that is sorted".

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