Postcode lottery: Some women are twice as likely to die from breast cancer

Posted on Feb 27 2018 - 9:09am by admin

Analysis shows how inequalities in diagnosis and treatment are potentially putting thousands of lives at risk.

The crisis last night sparked calls for health bosses to urgently address geographical variations in services across England.

The damning report, by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer, said: “Our inquiry has uncovered a concerning postcode lottery in screening uptake, early diagnosis and access to breast cancer services across England. This variation in NHS services can have a devastating impact on patients’ lives and must be addressed.”

All women aged 50 to 70 are invited for routine mammograms every three years as part of the NHS screening programme.

About a third of all breast cancers in the UK are diagnosed this way, with the programme preventing 1,300 deaths each year.

But research shows attendance has declined in all areas of the country except London over the past decade, with “significant disparities” across England.

The proportion of eligible women screened in the past three years in Leicestershire passed 80 per cent last year, while in Blackpool it was 55.4 per cent.

The report also reveals that breast cancer is diagnosed much later in some areas, potentially reducing a patient’s chances of survival.

The variation ranges from 61.9 per cent diagnosed early (stage 1 and 2) in NHS Gloucestershire to 88 per cent in NHS Rushcliffe in Notts.

Some 90 per cent of women who have breast cancer diagnosed at stage 1 survive for five years compared with 15 per cent who have it diagnosed at stage 4.

At a local level there is a huge disparity in death rates, ranging from a high of 31.9 per 100,000 people before the age of 75 in Newark and Sherwood, Notts, to national low of 13.3 per 100,000 in Tower Hamlets, east London.

Meanwhile, 13 per cent of UK breast radiologist posts remain vacant and a further 20 per cent of these specialists are due to retire in the next five years.

In some areas almost a third of women have to wait longer than a fortnight to see a specialist.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “This crucial report highlights geographical variation in NHS breast cancer services on a worrying scale. It shows many women are missing out on the best care this country has to offer and this is totally unacceptable.

“We urge NHS England and Public Health England to take immediate action to help prevent more breast cancers, detect the disease earlier and ensure all women receive fair access to the care, treatment and support they need.

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