My breast cancer screening letter never arrived

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Retired NHS nurse Patricia Minchin, now 75, from Hertfordshire, is one of hundreds of thousands of women whose letter inviting them to a breast cancer screening failed to arrive.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer two years after her letter should have been delivered.

I was absolutely devastated when I found the lumps in my breast.

I wasn’t expecting it. After my letter didn’t arrive in 2009, I complained to my GP and managed to have the scan in 2010.

A year late, but at least we got there and importantly I was fine.

When my second letter should have arrived in 2013, when I was 70, I thought I must have misunderstood the age cut-off and that was that. I believed I was out of the ‘most at risk’ age for breast cancer.

I went about my life for two years – but I’d been lulled into a false sense of security.

Patricia Minchin spoke with Sky News' health correspondent Paul Kelso
Image: Patricia Minchin spoke with Sky News’ health correspondent Paul Kelso

I now know I should have been sent a letter. That letter would have lead to a scan that could well have caught my cancer early and saved me from the harsh levels of cancer treatment that I had to endure.

After a visit to my GP, scans, biopsies – lots of biopsies – I was finally diagnosed on my 73rd birthday.

I had developed an aggressive form of cancer with three tumours.

What followed was a mastectomy, Herceptin treatment, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, three hospitalisations as my body became more susceptible to illness and eventually that the treatment had damaged my lungs.

I’ve been left with a problem with my lungs, likely from the intense radiotherapy I underwent as doctors tried to save my life.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admits up to 270 lives may have been shortened because of an NHS failing over breast cancer 2:50
Video: Hunt ‘sorry’ for breast scan error

My illness was a terrible strain on my husband, who took me along to all my appointments. My calendar used to be a mass of red spots, marks I used to keep track of all my treatment times.

I’m married with four children and five grandchildren. We’ve discussed how unlucky I was to miss out on my second screening, but now we know I wasn’t ineligible, I was missed out.

But I’m pragmatic. I was a nurse and I know the NHS like the back of my hand. I know these things happen but I do wonder the NHS is dealing with so many people – can it cope?

I do not want to speak ill of the NHS. I cannot fault the treatment they gave me but things like this make you wonder what else is going wrong.

I’m disappointed. I was angry that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said that there wasn’t certain evidence that mammograms weren’t effective for people over 70.

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And also when he said they didn’t want to announce it earlier because it would cause panic or something, I thought that was pathetic.

Ultimately, if I had had a mammogram when I was 70 it may have picked up something very small and I would not have gone through that whole traumatic time.

From – SkyNews

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