THIRTY women who underwent breast cancer screening in Oxford are being urgently recalled amid fears they could have been wrongly given the all clear.
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUHT) has launched a “serious incident” investigation after it discovered five women had developed breast cancer several months after they had screenings and additional assessments.
After these cases came to light 626 women, who had been screened and then had additional tests, between May 2011 and March 2014 were reviewed by National Breast Screening Service experts.
Out of those assessed under the Oxfordshire Breast Screening Service, OUHT says it is concerned about five per cent – 30 women.
The Trust has now written to those women, for whom additional tests may be required, and a telephone helpline has been set up to respond to any patients’ concerns.
The five, now undergoing treatment, who developed breast cancer had all undergone screening and were among those recalled for further assessments at the Churchill Hospital.
All of the assessments had been undertaken by the same doctor, who is still employed by the trust but no longer carrying out assessments as part of the breast screening process.
The investigation is being conducted by the trust, along with representatives from NHS England Thames Valley and the National NHS Breast Screening Programme.
The trust’s interim medical director, Dr Tony Berendt, said: “Our first priority is to review the 30 women who may have had an insufficient assessment at their last visit.”
He said he expected that the majority of the 30 women being recalled would require no further action, but added: “What is important is to ensure that to the best of our ability we have picked up any breast abnormalities and investigated them thoroughly.
“We are extremely sorry for the anxiety that will no doubt be caused to women who have had to be recalled and we will be offering them every support throughout this process.”
The trust moved to reassure thousands of women in Oxfordshire who have undergone breast screening, insisting that women could still have confidence in the service.
And it said new measures were already in place to ensure the situation is never repeated, including a requirement that all tests performed during the assessment appointment are reviewed by two different radiologists before women are contacted with the results.
Dr Berendt said: “While we are calling those women for early review, we would also like to reassure the women of Oxfordshire that there are no concerns about how the screening service functions overall.”
The trust has produced a leaflet, being sent to GPs and health centres today, setting out what has happened.
It says: “Through a recent internal review we identified five cases where women had presented with cancer before their next interval screening.
“This in itself would not be unusual as no screening is 100 per cent accurate in detecting all breast abnormalities and it is possible that some abnormalities develop later that were not apparent at the time of screening. However, in the case of these women, we believe that it is possible these cancers might have been detected earlier had some additional tests been carried out at the time of assessment.”
ALL women aged between 50 and 70 are invited for breast screening every three years, with 73,029 in Oxfordshire having undergone mammogram screenings over three years since 2011
In 2011/12, of the 22,312 screened, a total 1,290 were assessed with 1,455 out of 24,045 and 1,210 out of 26,672 in subsequent years
In Oxfordshire, around one in every 16 women who have initial screening mammograms are invited back for assessment and possibly more tests. This may involve further mammograms, biopsies or breast ultrasound.
WHO IS AFFECTED?
- THE only women affected are those who have been assessed in the past three years and then offered an early repeat breast screening assessment
- There are no concerns for the thousands of women who underwent breast screening and were not invited back for further assessment
- Any woman who has had an assessment following their initial screening mammogram, and who has not received a letter inviting them for a repeat assessment, need not worry
- The telephone helpline number is 01865 227000.
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