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Breast cancer screening scandal potentially involves even more women

Published on 25/05/18 at 09:17am

The news broke at the start of the month that a number of women who should have been invited to breast cancer screening had not received their invitation due to an automated system error; at the time, it was suggested that it meant 450,000 women did not receive an invitation for a scan but further independent research suggests the number could be closer to over 502,000.

The researcher who made this discovery is Professor Peter Sasieni, of the Queen Mary University of London, after digging back into the publically available data.

Within the data, he found that the age group of 65 to 70 had been consistently under invited to screenings from 2005 onwards. In Jeremy Hunt’s public admission of the error, he had suggested the error only went back as far as 2009.

Sasieni noted that in 2004-2005 the percentage of women invited was only 31%, which is significantly less than the age group 50-64 years old where 34-36% of women were invited each year.

Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, rebutted the claims to the BBC: “This is a flawed analysis which fails to take into account some important facts, such as when the breast screening programme was rolled out to all 70 year olds in England or when a clinical trial was started called Age X.”

When the original statistics were released, 309,000 of the original women that missed screenings were still alive. The Healthy Secretary acknowledged that 270 women may have had their lives shortened due to the failure of the IT system.

The announcement also revealed that an independent inquiry would be set up to discover how the error was missed for close to a decade – a time period that could be extended even further if Sasieni’s concerns are proven to be true.

Ben Hargreaves

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