Breast can­cer sur­vivors wrongly told they should go for screen­ing

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Laura Fitz­Patrick

BREAST can­cer sur­vivors have com­plained that screen­ing let­ters are forc­ing them to re­live the trauma of their bat­tle.

Women who have had dou­ble mas­tec­tomies to re­move the dis­ease have said they are still re­ceiv­ing in­vi­ta­tions for mam­mo­grams, even though they do not need to be screened.

Now char­i­ties are call­ing on the NHS to bet­ter link its IT sys­tems in or­der to pre­vent the dis­tress.

The NHS sys­tem au­to­mat­i­cally posts let­ters to Bri­tish women be­tween the ages of 50 and 70 who are reg­is­tered to a GP to in­vite them for reg­u­lar breast screen­ings.

Ac­cord­ing to NHS Dig­i­tal, doc­tors are sup­posed to flag higher risk in­di­vid­u­als and re­move pa­tients who do not need screen­ing from the sys­tem us­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion called Breast Screen­ing Select. How­ever, this does not al­ways hap­pen and women who have

Christ­mas on track

had a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy are still be­ing given screen­ing ap­point­ments.

Fiona Steven­son, 51, from Telford, fin­ished treat­ment for breast can­cer in 2015 when she had a nec­es­sary sec­ond mas­tec­tomy. She thought she had fin­ished with the or­deal but was hor­ri­fied when she re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion for a new mam­mo­gram ear­lier this year.

She said: “When I got the let­ter it was like ‘here we go again, how do I cope with it?’ I was in bits, I was shak­ing. I called them up straight away and asked what it means be­cause I thought I was tak­ing some­body else’s ap­point­ment that they need. There are some women out there that don’t have the re­silience and will have put the let­ter straight in the bin.”

The num­ber of women in­vited for screen­ing has in­creased by more than half a mil­lion in the last decade. Last year 2.59 mil­lion were in­vited for a mam­mo­gram, with 1.84 mil­lion at­tend­ing screen­ing, a frac­tion be­ing women who did not re­quire an ap­point­ment.

Sally Green­brook, pol­icy man­ager at Breast Can­cer Now, said: “It’s con­cern­ing that some women who have had dou­ble mas­tec­tomies are be­ing caused sig­nif­i­cant dis­tress as a re­sult of re­ceiv­ing un­nec­es­sary in­vi­ta­tions to breast screen­ing. We need bet­ter links be­tween screen­ing ser­vices and GP records and a suf­fi­cient breast screen­ing IT sys­tem to en­sure this doesn’t hap­pen.”

NHS Eng­land said there was clear guid­ance on which cases should not be called in and clin­i­cians should con­tact the breast screen­ing of­fice to check whether a pa­tient has had a mas­tec­tomy.

A ‘Santa Spe­cial’ steam train climbs the hill into Goath­land sta­tion, on the North York­shire Moors Rail­way. The train has ap­peared in sev­eral films and TV se­ries.

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