General

Breast Cancer Screening Failures in the UK

In the United Kingdom, women who are aged between 50 through 70 years old are instantly invited to go through breast cancer screenings for little to no charge every three years, due to the risk of developing this devastating disease increases with age. While this may seem to be an amazing system that will result in little issues, according to the British government, a total of over 270 women who were based in England may have died due to not being called for their final breast cancer screening.

Jeremy Hunt, the appointed UK Health Secretary, issued an independent statement for the failings. Hunt stated that due to an undetected computer algorithm error, an estimated 450,000 women were failed to get their letter invitation to attend their final breast cancer screening. Hunt continues with an official statement on Wednesday. He stated that a multitude of women aged between 68 and 71 did not get these final invitations – however, it is unclear if the delay in the breast cancer diagnosis resulted in any avoidable harm or death. Hunt continued with his statement; he believes that tragically, there may have been some women in the mentioned group that still may have been alive today if this failure did not happen.

Due to this incident. Health officials are in the process of contacting the deceased women’s next of kin who are suspected of missing their scans, thus resulting in them dying of breast cancer. The health officials plan on apologising and starting the process of seeing if the error led to the subsequent death – if so, then compensation may be given.

The Breast Cancer Screening Invitations


Lynda Thomas, the chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, accompanied by Martin Gore, a professor of cancer medicine at the Institute of Cancer Research will be overseeing the independent review of the screening failure incident.

An official report is expected to be released in six months. However, there have been new measures incorporated to avoid any more errors from occurring while also reassuring others who have been personally affected.

Since the incident has come to light, the algorithm failure that caused these failures has since been fixed to assure that the women who were affected, all 309,000 who are predicted to be still alive, will receive their invitations for their screenings by the end of the month.

Expanding the Capacity

The National Health Service of England (NHS) has made plans to expand the offered breast cancer screenings to allow for all women affected to be screened in at least six months maximum. However, the ideal plan is for the women to be screened within an earlier time frame.

Public health officials such as chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, Delyth Morgan and Shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, give their own opinions about the tragic ordeal. Morgan labelled this event as a “disease error” for women in England who were affected by their undetected cancer. Morgan follows this statement up by prompting why this event could happen in the first place. Ashworth adds on by asking if assurances would be provided to prevent this from happening again with any screening programs.

Wales and Northern Ireland uses a similar IT program for their screening services. However, health officials in these regions do not believe that their respected screening programs were affected by a computing error. Though, this event has prompted these two areas to check their systems more frequently.

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