2,000 breast cancer cases missed every year by NHS screening, research suggests

6 January 2015

2,000 breast cancer cases missed every year by NHS screening, research suggests

2,000 breast cancer cases missed every year by NHS screening, research suggests

NHS breast cancer screening via mammograms fail to identify thousands of breast cancer cases every year according to a new study.

A study has suggested that women should be offered ultrasound scans because mammograms under the NHS are missing too many breast cancer cases.

The warnings for urgent change in the UK come in light of American trials presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas.

Their four-year study involved over 13,000 women with dense breast tissue. Scientists say that one in three women have similar such tissue and which increases the risk of cancer and makes it harder to detected potential tumours.

Currently under the NHS breast cancer screening involves women being offered mammograms every three years from age 47 to 73.

Every year, two million women in the UK have the X-rays, and around 50,000 are diagnosed with breast cancer. The new study warns that current levels of screening could be missing thousands of cases that could have been detected by ultrasound.

The study at the Hospital of Central Connecticut found that the scans found between three and four breast cancers per 1,000 women screened, all of which had been missed by mammograms.

The figures suggest that around 2,400 cases a year are being missed by NHS screening.

Are mammograms alone the only way to protect against risk of breast cancer?

Dr Jean Weigert, a clinical radiologist and director of breast imaging at the hospital, said: “Having dense breasts substantially increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer."

“We found that among women with dense breasts, screening breast ultrasound detected a significant number of breast cancers not discovered by mammogram.”

She said all women whose mammogram found dense tissue should be informed of this fact and immediately offered ultrasound scans to identify whether any possible lumps are tumours.

Dr Weigert said too many screening programmes avoided routine use of ultrasound “because we’re afraid of finding too many things”. She added: “I don’t think people should be afraid; finding a large cancer when you could have found a smaller one – that’s scary.”

Katherine Woods, from the charity Breast Cancer Campaign, said there was now growing evidence that mammograms alone were not enough to protect women with dense tissue.

“We know that breast density is one of the emerging risk factors putting hundreds of thousands of women at increased risk of developing breast cancer,” she said. “It is crucial that more evidence is collected about how information about breast density could be used to calculate risk.”

Patient Care Options

Have you or a loved one wanted to raise a complaint with the NHS  regarding medical mistreatment relating to breast cancer screening that has been experienced at a NHS hospital or even at a private hospital? Our specialist teams can provide FREE advice about what your options are, whether you want to make a medical negligence claim or medical mistreatment complaint or simply to better understand what your patient rights. You can contact us here today for  a no-obligation and completely free conversation to discuss what happened to you.