I found this appalling story in The Independent this week. Fancy being told you were all clear then – oh surely some mistake, you have got cancer after all….
Fourteen women in Britain have been told they have breast cancer after a hospital radiologist wrongly gave them the all-clear.
The unnamed member of staff at Accrington Victoria Hospital, Lancashire, was responsible for 355 screenings that later came under scrutiny.
A total of 85 women were asked to have a second breast examination and of these the 14 were found to have cancer.
They have yet to learn whether the late diagnosis will affect their chances of survival.
A further four patients were found to have abnormal cells. However, health officials said the prognosis in each of these cases was unaffected by the radiologist’s errors.
Senior officials at East Lancashire NHS Trust have confirmed that the radiologist has since left the hospital.
Accrington Victoria carries out breast cancer screenings for the whole of East Lancashire.
The women affected by the error are understood to live in and around Burnley, Blackburn, Darwen, Accrington, Rossendale and the Ribble Valley.
Rineke Schram, the trust’s medical director, issued an apology “for any distress and anxiety caused.”
She went on: “The delay in identifying the women with breast cancer does mean there has been a delay in these cancers being treated.
“It is unfortunately not possible to state with certainty whether this delay in treatment has affected the prognosis, other than to state that early-stage breast cancers have a good prognosis.
“The cancers have been picked up through screening, albeit with a delay.”
Regional breast cancer experts were drafted in to Accrington after the initial concerns were raised last year.
An independent review concentrated its attention on the work carried out by a single radiologist over a period of three years.
Officials have refused to reveal the extent of the delay between the original scans and the eventual diagnosis in each case.
It is known that the radiologist involved in the alert carried out his last screenings in December. He left the trust in April.
Mrs Schram said: “The work of the trust’s other breast screening radiologists has been independently assessed and found to be of a high standard.
“The trust will be commissioning a further independent review to provide further assurance and ensure lessons are learned.”
Dr Ellis Friedman, director of public health for NHS East Lancashire, said: “The incident team, which I chaired, has thoroughly reviewed the incident and will ensure that lessons will be learned.”