MPs launch NHS screening inquiry

MPs will investigate the evidence supporting NHS screening programmes, after an independent review cast doubt over existing checks for early signs of breast cancer.

Breast screening: MPs' inquiry to assess evidence behind checks
Breast screening: MPs' inquiry to assess evidence behind checks

The inquiry by the House of Commons science and technology committee follows calls for screening to be extended to conditions such as prostate and lung cancers.

An independent review in 2012 found that for every 10,000 women invited for breast cancer screening, 43 deaths are prevented but 129 women are unnecessarily treated.

The review has now prompted MPs to investigate the evidence behind screening, so that any future extension to programmes is based on ‘solid science’.

Andrew Miller MP (Lab, Ellesmere Port and Leston) said: ‘The NHS spends a significant amount of money on health screening and it is important that this is underpinned by good scientific evidence.’

He added: ‘Calls to extend screening to other conditions should ensure that there is good evidence that the screening would be effective. We will be examining the evidence base behind the decisions on which illnesses to screen for and will be asking whether we are currently getting these decisions right in the UK.’

The NHS Cancer Screening Programme screens for early cases of breast, bowel and cervical cancers, while the NHS Health Check looks for signs of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

The health service also screens for sight loss in diabetics, genetic and infectious diseases in unborn babies and newborns, and abdominal aortic aneurysm in men over 65.

The committee is seeking written submissions by Wednesday 26 February 2014.

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