Breast cancer screening scandal: More women in Denmark affected

Up to 2,000 women in Jutland and Funen may not have received the breast cancer screening they should have been given, escalating a scandal previously limited to a single hospital.

Breast cancer screening scandal: More women in Denmark affected
Mammography equipment at a Danish hospital. File photo: Liselotte Sabroe / Ritzau Scanpix

Reports of inadequate breast cancer screening were up until now limited to Ringsted Hospital in the Zealand administrative Region.

But university hospitals in Aarhus (AUH) and Odense (OUH) may have also failed to follow national breast cancer screening guidelines, Jyllands-Posten reports, bringing two further healthcare regions – Central Jutland and South Denmark – under scrutiny over the issue.

At Aarhus University Hospital, women under 50 with a history of surgical treatment for breast cancer; and women with family risk factors for the condition are encompassed by the potentially inadequate screening.

National guidelines require regular examination using both X-ray and ultrasound along with examination by a doctor in order to rule out the disease.

But in 2016 and 2017, and possibly dating back to 2011, several hundred women were offered solely X-ray examination, the newspaper reports.

At Odense University Hospital, 299 women under the age of 50 who have family risk factors for breast cancer were, during a four-year period, examined using X-ray alone.

The choice of examination technique was made for “resource-related reasons”, according to records taken at a meeting of the Danish Radiological Mammary Diagnostics Society (Dansk Forening for Radiologisk Mammadiagnostik) in 2017. Representatives from the Central Jutland and South Denmark regional health boards were present, according to the report.

According to the Danish Patient Safety Authority (Styrelsen for Patientsikkerhed, DPSA), 1,049 women who reported pain in their breast were also given examinations which failed to comply with guidelines.

OUH has received a referral from the authority and will recall women affected by the issue for new and complete examinations.

The 299 women who have family risk factors for breast cancer will be offered full clinical mammography at their next annual check, OUH confirmed in a press statement.

Of the total of 911 women who reported breast pains, a selected group be recalled for mammography.

In the statement, OUH stressed that patients with clear, potential indicators of cancer were given “further investigations” in the form of clinical mammography.

Minister for Health Ellen Trane Nørby told Jyllands-Posten that the situation was “unacceptable”.

“This is a failure (on behalf of health services) and unacceptable that the Regions are not giving women the treatment to which they are entitled,” Nørby said.

The Danish Cancer Society (Kræftens Bekæmpelse) also criticized health authorities over the issue.

“An inquiry should be conducted into this. We now have a well-documented situation in Ringsted and apparently also situations in other Regions where there have been problems,” the charity’s CEO Jesper Fisker told Ritzau.

“(State) authorities should look into whether guidelines were adhered to in all locations. This is a matter of restoring confidence in the health service in this area,” he added.

READ ALSO: Breast cancer checks may have been inadequate for 300 women at Danish hospital

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Danish government reaches agreement on ‘1,000 nurses’ plan

The government has reached agreement with health authorities on how to fulfil an election pledge to increase the number of nurses in the country’s public health system by 1,000.

Danish government reaches agreement on '1,000 nurses' plan
Photo: Linda Kastrup/Ritzau Scanpix

The government agreed with Danish Regions, the interest organisation for the country’s five regional health authorities, a deal to ensure that 1,000 more nurses will arrive in 2021, as promised in December’s budget.

500 of the nurses are to be found this year.

“The agreement means a significant and specified effort in relation to nurses at hospitals, which we will follow up to ensure that we reach the target of 1,000 more nurses,” finance minister Nicolai Wammen said.


The Danish Nurses' Organization (Dansk Sygeplejeråd) supports the deal, Ritzau reports.

The Social Democratic minority government reached in December an agreement with allied parties to provide 300 million kroner this year and 600 million kroner annually from next year to hire more nurses.

The purpose of that investment is to employ a total of 1,000 more nurses by next year, with the first 500 to be found in 2020.

Danish Regions will set in motion a number of measures aimed at achieving those objectives, including getting hospital staff to go from part-time to full-time, and all new positions being full-time.

In addition, better introductory courses will be introduced for new graduates, while practical elements of nursing degrees will be changed in an effort to reduce the drop-out rate of the programmes.

“On behalf of both patients and employees, I am pleased that this agreement ensures funding for more hands at hospitals,” Danish Regions chairperson Stephanie Lose said.

“This will improve treatment for patients and the working environment on the wards. However, recruitment is a major challenge as there is not a great deal of unemployment amongst nurses, which is also the case for other staff groups,” Lose added.

“I am therefore very pleased that we are in agreement with the professional organizations [unions, ed.] on a joint effort to get more people to go full-time, as this will also contribute to increasing workforce,” she added.