Women face “unacceptable differences” in breast cancer care across England caused by variations in screening, the availability of drugs and a staffing crisis, a new report has concluded.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Breast Cancer has published the final report of its inquiry into geographical inequalities in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and care across England and found “stark” variations in the standard and availability of care.

Based on where they live in England, a woman with breast cancer may be:

  • More than twice as likely to die from breast cancer under the age of 75 than a woman treated in a different area,
  • A third less likely to have attended breast cancer screening in the last three years compared to a woman living in another part of the country.

Marked differences in the volume and effectiveness of screening mean that some women are far more likely to have their cancer diagnosed early. The result, the report found, is that some women are more than twice as likely to die from breast cancer under the age of 75 based on where they live.

This variation in NHS services can have a devastating impact on patients’ lives and must be addressed.

Workforce shortages are a significant factor in this disparity, with 13% of all radiology posts currently vacant, and one in five radiographers due to retire within the next five years.  The report recommends Health Education England and all Cancer Alliances “urgently ensure there are enough healthcare professionals to deliver high-quality and timely diagnosis, treatment and care to local women.”

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