None of the three main health screening programmes in England - bowel, breast or cervical - met their targets last year, according to a report by the National Audit Office. There were also delays in cervical screening results reaching half of women tested, with a backlog of nearly 100,000 samples. Bowel screening performed best, narrowly missing its 60% target. A health think tank said the report was "deeply concerning". But ministers said they were committed to making improvements to keep screening programmes "among the best in the world".
Up to 270 women in England may have died because they did not receive invitations to a final routine breast cancer screening, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says. Speaking in the Commons, he said 450,000 women aged around 70 had failed to get invitations since 2009. Mr Hunt has announced an independent review and apologised to the women and their families. He said oversight of the screening programme had "not been good enough". GPs leaders said they were "shocked" to learn of the error and said the implications for GPs would potentially be "significant".
Boston native Erin Cummings has been battling cancer on and off for the last 50 years and now she's pushing others to get back to routine cancer screenings after they plummeted during the pandemic. They're not coming in and they're getting sick," said Cummings, who now lives on Martha's Vineyard. "It's just the saddest thing in the world to me, it doesn't have to be this way." Screenings for major cancers dropped sharply when the pandemic hit last year. One electronic medical records company reported an estimated 80% to 90% decline in screening for breast, colorectal and cervical cancers during March and April of 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019, according to research cited by the American Cancer Society. Screening for these cancers had risen by June 2020, but rates were still down around 30% from prepandemic levels. Routine screening rates are expected to have rebounded even further with continued reopening and vaccination efforts, and Cummings emphasized it's important not to wait to reschedule missed appointments. The delay, she said, can be deadly if patients then present with late-stage disease that is harder to treat. "It can be the difference between life and death, just that time factor.
The Japan Cancer Society is urging people to get screened for cancer as soon as possible after reporting Saturday that screenings fell around 30% in 2020 from the previous year. The drop may have been due to the many medical checkups that were canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus, with many people refraining from visiting doctors amid the pandemic. The Tokyo-based society is calling on people to receive cancer screenings at an early date, saying estimates based on the size of the decrease of screening recipients and cancer detection rates show that some 1,000 to 2,100 people may have undetected cases of the disease. The society asked its 42 branches across the country to report the number of recipients of cancer screenings offered by local governments and received valid answers from 32 branches in February and March this year. The survey found that the number of people who received screenings for stomach, lung, bowel, breast and cervical cancers in 2020 fell some 30.5% from 5,670,796 in 2019 to 3,941,491.
The ability to cheaply and quickly sequence entire genomes is changing the way diseases are identified and treated. But it is also likely to change the way we make some of the most important and personal decisions of our lives: how, and with whom, we have children. Pre-conception genetic screening (testing for "carrier status" before pregnancy) has usually only been available to couples already known to be at risk of a particular disease. Ashkenazi Jews, for example, are most likely to be carriers of the mutated HEXA gene linked to Tay-Sachs disease, a fatal genetic disorder. Screening for the HEXA mutation is therefore recommended for all Ashkenazi Jews planning children.