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Home > News > Advice for women concerned about the national Breast Screening issue

Advice for women concerned about the national Breast Screening issue

Posted on Thursday 3rd May 2018

Public Health England has explained that a number of women aged between 70 and 79 are now being offered a breast screening appointment after it emerged that some women did not receive an appointment for their final screening.

This was caused a by IT issue which Public Health England has now identified a manual failsafe for and they are fully investigating why the issue happened.

Any women who are concerned should call the national helpline 0800 169 2692.

Below is specific and more detailed advice issued by Public Health England and there is also a hyperlink to further questions that you may have.

Information about the offer of a breast screen for women aged 70-79, May 2018

Some women aged between 70 and 79 are being offered the opportunity for a breast screen. The offer of a screen comes after some women did not receive an invitation for a final screen, as part of the routine NHS Breast Screening Programme.

The Breast Screening Programme usually invites women to have a screen once every three years when aged between 50 and 70 (up to their 71st birthday). This means women will usually receive their final screen sometime between their 68th and 71st birthdays.

Most women can be reassured that they will have received their final invitation but there are some women, now aged between 70 – 79 years, who have missed an invitation due to a problem which dates back to 2009.

We are very sorry this has happened and Public Health England is now offering the opportunity for a further screen. They will be writing to all affected women registered with a GP by the end of May with further information. A helpline is also available: 0800 169 2692.

How do I know if I did not receive my final screening invitation?

All women affected who are registered with a GP are being offered the opportunity for a screen and will be informed by letter from Public Health England (PHE) by the end of May 2018.

Women affected aged up to their 72nd birthday will receive a letter inviting them for a catch up screen.

Other women, those aged 72-79, will receive a letter providing clear information on what to do next if they choose to have a screen (see ‘Making a decision about whether or not to have a screen below’).

These women, aged 72-79, will be asked to contact the helpline on 0800 169 2692 (set up to support women about this issue) who will link with their local Breast Screening Service to arrange an appointment and invitation letter on their behalf.

Women, aged 70 -79, currently registered with a GP, who do not receive a letter from PHE can be assured they are not affected and do not need a catch-up screen.

However, if you are not currently registered with a GP and believe you did not receive an invitation for a screen sometime between your 68th - 71st birthdays then we advise that you get in touch with the helpline on 0800 169 2692.

Making your decision about whether or not to have a screen

Women aged 71 or over are not routinely for breast screening because the benefits of this are unclear. Women over the age of 71 years can however make their own appointments for breast screening every three years if they wish.

Experts say the research evidence is uncertain about the benefits and harms of breast screening for a woman of your age. For some older women, screening may diagnose and treat a breast problem that would never go on to cause harm if left alone. This is called ‘over diagnosis’. As women get older, there is a higher chance of ‘over diagnosis’ than there is of having their life saved by screening.

To help with your decision you may find it helpful to read the following leaflet: Breast Screening For Women Over 70

If you have noticed any changes to your breasts

If you have noticed any changes to your breasts or had any breast symptoms, then please do go and see your GP. See below for more information on breast cancer symptoms.

Women who have developed breast cancer

If you are over 70 and have developed breast cancer we understand finding out you did not receive an invitation for a screen at the right time may be upsetting.

Experts say that in many cases missing a single breast screen at around 70 years of age is unlikely to make a significant difference to the course of a woman’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, we understand the importance of looking at your individual case to see if it has affected you.

If you would like to discuss this with a nurse, please ring our free helpline on 0800 169 2692. Please tell the helpline operator you have breast cancer and they will be able to support you.

Getting support and advice

Finding out that your invitation for screening was not sent at the right time might be upsetting for those women affected and we apologise for a fault in the system that has led to invitations not being sent at the scheduled time.

For further information, see the FAQs below. A dedicated advice line has been set up for the women affected and also for those that think they did not receive an invitation - call 0800 169 2692 if you need further support and advice.

As usual, all women should continue to be aware of any changes to their breasts and if they have any concerns then they should see their GP.

 Frequently Asked Questions 

A full PHE statement is available at