Speaking in the commons toady, Health secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed that a shocking 450,000 women in their early 70s did not receive an invite for breast cancer screening due to a technical error.
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age and breast screening invitations are routinely issued to women aged between 50 and 70.
A problem with the computer algorithm used for NHS routine screening meant that women approaching their 71st birthday did not receive invitations for their final breast screening scan.
Of the 450,000 women who were affected, approximately 309,000 are still alive. Mr Hunt indicated that computer modelling suggests between 135 and 270 women may have had their lives shortened as a result.
An independent review has been launched and all women affected will now be contacted by letter by the end of May. Those under 72 will receive an appointment for a catch-up mammogram and those over 72 are invited to discuss the pros and cons of further screening for them individually.
Anyone concerned that they may be affected can call the breast screening helpline number 0800 169 2692 for medical advice.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, which has welcomed the independent review, said: "The priority should not be to establish blame, but to put measures in place to invite those women affected for screening, where appropriate; to ensure there are enough resources in the system to cope with any additional demand that might follow as a result; and to take steps to ensure this never happens again."
If you think you may have been adversely affected by delays in routine cancer screening or have concerns about treatment you have received please contact Catherine Bell (Catherine.email@example.com) on 01865 781140, for a free and confidential discussion of your legal options.
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 68-71 had failed to get invitations since 2009. Mr Hunt has announced an independent review and apologised "wholeheartedly" to the women and their families. He said oversight of the NHS 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".