In England women of a certain age are routinely screened for both cervical cancer and breast cancer. Cancer screening involves testing apparently healthy people for signs that could show that a cancer is developing.

Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer screening uses a test called mammography which involves taking X-rays of the breasts. Screening can help to find breast cancers early, when they are too small to see or feel. These tiny breast cancers are usually easier to treat than larger ones.

Each year more than 2 million women have breast cancer screening in the UK. The NHS Breast Screening Programme invites all women aged between 50 and 70 for screening every 3 years. You need to be registered with a GP to receive the invitations. (Source: www.cancerresearch.org )

 On 18 December 2014 the BBC reported that 6 women in Oxfordshire had been recalled over breast cancer screenings carried out by the same radiologist. The recall was triggered after cases specific to a particular radiologist were reviewed when 6 women developed cancer in between routine examinations and their original mammograms were checked. The Health Trust involved has now changed its processes so that mammograms are now reviewed by 2 radiologists. It is too early to say whether the delay has adversely affected the outcome for the 6 women recalled, but, if it has, then there is likely to be a claim for clinical negligence.

Cervical Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer screening is not a test for cancer. It is a method of preventing cancer by detecting abnormalities in a woman’s cervix (neck of the womb) which , if left untreated, could lead to the development of cancer.

The test is offered every 3 to 5 years to all women in the UK  who are between the ages of 25 and 64.

In the 1990s there were a number of “scandals” surrounding the incorrect interpretation of smear tests, as the procedure is called.

Perhaps the biggest cervical cancer scandal of recent times broke at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital in 1996 when the smear tests of 91,000 women were recalled, eight women died and 30 had hysterectomies. More than 50 compensation cases have since settled. (www.theguardian.com)