Key facts you might need to know about the recent breast screening IT error.

Friday 4 May 2018      Health information blog

Are you confused about the breast screening programme failure that broke this week? Do you know what screening is all about?

We’ve got the key facts you need to know about it all...

Women who were aged between 68-71 since 2009 may not have received their final screening invitation. This means that if you’re under 68, you shouldn’t have been affected by the issue. 

Here’s what you need to know about breast screening more generally:

  1. You’ll get your first screening appointment between 50-53, and will be invited every three years
    Women over 50 have an increased risk of breast cancer – at least four out of five of all breast cancer cases are in women over 50.

    Screening isn’t routinely offered to women under 50 because their breasts are usually more dense, meaning mammograms can be less effective. The benefits are therefore less likely to outweigh the risks in women under 50.

  2. You’ll stop getting breast screening invites after 70, but you can still make your own appointment
    Although you won’t be routinely invited, you can still book a three-yearly appointment through your local screening unit or asking your GP.

    The reason invites stop is because research studies on screening have only been conducted in women aged 50-70. There is currently a research trial to see whether invitations should be extended to 73.

  3. There are risks and benefits to breast screening, so it’s important you make an informed choice
    Evidence suggests that breast screening can detect early signs of breast cancer. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it can be to treat. That’s why it’s estimated that breast screening prevents 1,300 deaths from breast cancer each year. 

    However, the main risk associated with screening is over-treatment. Around one in five women who are diagnosed through breast screening will receive treatment for a breast cancer that may never have caused a problem in their lifetime. Because doctors are unable to tell at the point of diagnosis whether an early breast cancer will become harmful or not, they offer treatment to all women.

  4. It’s important that all women check their breasts regularly, despite whether they’re attending screenings
    If you spot any unusual changes to your breasts, make sure you get it checked by your GP as soon as possible. Even if your most recent mammogram result was normal, breast cancer can develop during the three years between screening appointments.
     

If you’re currently aged between 68 and 72, you may not have received your final screening invitation. Here’s what you need to know about screening and what you need to do in light of the recent news:

  1. Due to an ongoing NHS IT problem since 2009, women aged between 68-79 may not have been invited to their final screening appointment
    The NHS has said measures have been put in place to fix the IT problem so this won’t affect women going forward.

  2. You’ll be receiving a letter in the next couple of weeks, outlining what you need to do next
    After you’ve received the letter, you’ll be given a catch-up breast screening appointment within the next six months, which we’d encourage you to attend.
    We’d urge you not to panic, but if you’re worried, please contact a national helpline which has been set up - 0800 169 2692 - or go to the NHS Choices website for more information.

  3. After your catch-up appointment, you won’t be routinely invited to breast screening but you can still make an appointment
    You’ll be able to book a three-yearly appointment through your local screening unit or asking your GP.

    The reason invites stop is because research studies on screening have only been conducted in women aged 50-70. There is currently a research trial to see whether invitations should be extended to 73.

  4. There are risks and benefits to breast screening, so it’s important you make an informed choice
    Evidence suggests that breast screening can detect early signs of breast cancer. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it can be to treat. That’s why it’s estimated that breast screening prevents 1,300 deaths from breast cancer each year.

    However, the main risk associated with screening is over-treatment. Around one in five women who are diagnosed through breast screening will receive treatment for a breast cancer that may never have caused a problem in their lifetime. Because doctors are unable to tell at the point of diagnosis whether an early breast cancer will become harmful or not, they offer treatment to all women.

  5. It’s important that all women check their breasts regularly, despite whether they’re attending screenings
    If you spot any unusual changes to your breasts, make sure you get it checked by your GP as soon as possible.

If you’re currently over 72, you may not have received your final screening invitation. Here’s what you need to know about screening and what you need to do in light of the recent news:

  1. Due to an ongoing NHS IT problem since 2009, women aged between 68-79 may not have been invited to their final screening appointment
    The NHS has said measures have been put in place to fix the IT problem so this won’t affect women going forward.

  2. You’ll be receiving a letter from the NHS in the next couple of weeks, outlining what you need to do next
    Within this letter, you should be told how to book a screening appointment, if you’d like one.

    In the meantime, we’d urge you not to panic, but if you’re worried please contact a national helpline which has been set up - 0800 169 2692 - or go to the NHS Choices website for more information.

  3. Remember, you won’t be routinely invited to breast screening, but you can still make an appointment
    You’ll be able to book a three-yearly appointment through your local screening unit or asking your GP.

    Routine appointments stop after 70 because research studies on screening have only been conducted in women aged 50-70. There is currently a research trial to see whether invitations should be extended to 73.

  4. There are risks and benefits to breast screening, so it’s important you make an informed choice
    Evidence suggests that breast screening can detect early signs of breast cancer. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it can be to treat. That’s why it’s estimated that breast screening prevents 1,300 deaths from breast cancer each year.

    However, the main risk associated with screening is over-treatment. Around one in five women who are diagnosed through breast screening will receive treatment for a breast cancer that may never have caused a problem in their lifetime. Because doctors are unable to tell at the point of diagnosis whether an early breast cancer will become harmful or not, they offer treatment to all women.

  5. It’s important that all women check their breasts regularly, despite whether they’re attending screenings
    If you spot any unusual changes to your breasts, make sure you get it checked by your GP as soon as possible.

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer within the last nine years, and you’re aged between 70 and 79, the missed screening appointment may or may not have helped in diagnosing your breast cancer earlier. We know this must be upsetting news for you to hear. Here’s what you need to know about screening 

  1. Due to an ongoing NHS IT problem since 2009, women aged between 68-79 may not have been invited to their final screening appointment
    The NHS has said measures have been put in place to fix the IT problem so this won’t affect women going forward. 

  2. Your missed screening appointment may or may not have helped in diagnosing your breast cancer earlier
    Whether your breast cancer was detected through a screening appointment, or by noticing an unusual change to your breasts, the NHS’ failure to send you your final screening appointment may not have made a significant difference to the course of your diagnosis and treatment. 

  3. You’ll receive a letter from the NHS in the next couple of weeks, outlining what you need to do 
    Within this letter, you’ll be told what to do to consider your individual case. In the meantime, we’d urge you not to panic, but if you’re worried please contact a national helpline which has been set up - 0800 169 2692 - or go to the NHS Choices website for more information.

  4. If you’re treatment is finished, you’ll be offered annual breast screening for the next five years. 
    The error should not affect your follow up treatment. After the five years of annual screening, you can book a three-yearly appointment through your local screening unit or asking your GP. 

    Routine appointments stop after 70 because research studies on screening have only been conducted in women aged 50-70. There is currently a research trial to see whether invitations should be extended to 73.

  5. For care and support, you can speak to specialist nurses through the Breast Cancer Care or Macmillan helplines.

    Breast Cancer Care: 0808 800 6000 (Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm and Saturday, 9am-1pm)

    Macmillan: 0808 808 00 00 (Monday-Friday, 9am – 8pm)

If you’ve lost a loved one to breast cancer and they missed your breast cancer, we know this must be really hard news to hear and we’re sorry for your loss. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Due to an ongoing NHS IT problem since 2009, women aged between 68-79 may not have been invited to their final screening appointment.
    The NHS has said measures have been put in place to fix the IT problem so this won’t affect women going forward.

  2. You’ll receive a letter from the NHS in the next couple of weeks, outlining what to do next
    In the meantime, if you’d like to speak to someone about the issue, please contact a national helpline which has been set up - 0800 169 2692 - or go to the NHS Choices website for more information.

  3. For care and support, you can speak to specialist nurses through the Breast Cancer Care or Macmillan helplines.

    Breast Cancer Care: 0808 800 6000 (Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm and Saturday, 9am-1pm

    Macmillan: 0808 808 00 00 (Monday-Friday, 9am – 8pm)

If you’re a friend or family member of someone who might be affected by the news, you might be worried. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Due to an ongoing NHS IT problem since 2009, women aged between 68-79 may not have been invited to their final screening appointment
    The NHS has said measures have been put in place to fix the IT problem so this won’t affect women going forward.

  2. Your friend or family member will receive a letter from the NHS in the next couple of weeks, if they’ve been affected
    They may or may not be invited to a catch-up appointment, depending on their age. If they aren’t automatically given an appointment, they’ll be given information about how to go about booking an appointment. 

    In the meantime, we’d urge you not to panic but if you’d like to speak to someone about the issue, please contact a national helpline which has been set up - 0800 169 2692 - or go to the NHS Choices website for more information.

  3. Women over 70 aren’t routinely invited to breast screening but you can still make an appointment
    After their catch-up appointment, they’ll be able to book a three-yearly appointment through their local screening unit or asking their GP.

    The reason invites stop after 70 is because research studies on screening have only been conducted in women aged 50-70. There is currently a research trial to see whether invitations should be extended to 73.

  4. There are risks and benefits to breast screening, so it’s important they make an informed choice
    Evidence suggests that breast screening can detect early signs of breast cancer. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it can be to treat. That’s why it’s estimated that breast screening prevents 1,300 deaths from breast cancer each year.

    However, the main risk associated with screening is over-treatment. Around one in five women who are diagnosed through breast screening will receive treatment for a breast cancer that may never have caused a problem in their lifetime. Because doctors are unable to tell at the point of diagnosis whether an early breast cancer will become harmful or not, they offer treatment to all women.

  5. It’s important that all women check their breasts regularly, despite whether they’re attending screenings
    If they spot any unusual changes to their breasts, make sure they get it checked by their GP as soon as possible.