breast screening error

The breast screening computer error: what you need to know

If you’ve been worried about the recent news about an IT error which meant that 450,000 women in England aged 70 to 79 were not informed about crucial breast cancer screenings, you’re not alone: there are fears that as many as 270 women may have died because of a computer error. And according to a letter published in the Lancet recently, there may be even more women who should have been screened than first thought.

While no-one likes being reminded about being tested, not being reminded at all is a far more troubling experience. So how do you know if you missed a breast screening, and what can you do about it? Here are the main points…

How will I know if I’ve missed a breast screening appointment?

Of all the women who weren’t informed about screenings, over 309,000 are still alive and have been sent a letter, which should have arrived before the end of May. The letters invited women under 72 for a catch-up screening and directed women over the age of 72 towards a helpline to discuss whether a screening is appropriate.

According to Public Health England (PHE), women aged between 70-79 who are currently registered with a GP and have not received a letter are not affected, and do not need a catch-up screening. They advise that if you not currently registered with a GP and you believe they have been affected, you should call their helpline on 0800 169 2692.

What should I do now?

The PHE have advised – as always – that women should be aware of any changes to their breasts, while the Ministry of Health advised that if women had any concerns about their breasts, they should visit their GP at the first opportunity. They also re-stressed that everyone registered with a family doctor who did not receive a letter by the end of May should be reassured they had not missed a screening.

What about women currently under 70 and over 80?

The Ministry of Health has stated that no-one under 70 has been affected, and only a small proportion of women at the upper age limit of the NHS programme who were aged between 70 and 71 were affected. People over 80 are not affected.

What is being done to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

The government claims that urgent work is being carried out on the computerised invitation system, and an additional failsafe procedure has been introduced to ensure that the problem does not reoccur.

What if I have noticed a change in my breasts?

As always, if you have noticed any changes in your breasts or had any breast cancer symptoms, then you should go to see your GP. The symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • A lump in the breast
  • Dimpling of the skin or thickening in the breast tissue
  • A nipple that has turned inward
  • Pain or discomfort in the breast that has not gone away

For more advice, call us on 0800 612 9490 or email us on to arrange an immediate consultation.