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 found "stark" variations in the standard and availability of care across England, sometimes within the same town or region.
Marked differences in the volume and effectiveness of screening means that some women are far more likely to have their cancer diagnosed early.
In areas with complete diagnosis records for at least nine out of 10 women, Rushcliffe covering Nottingham was the best-performing area with 88% of breast cancers identified at stage 1 or 2. Gloucestershire on the other hand was the worst performing with just 62%.
In Slough, just 32% of breast cancers were identified at stage 1 or 2, but the area only has complete records of the diagnosis path of 40% of cases so was not highlighted by the report.
In some areas only just over half of women take up invitations for screening compared with four in five women in other parts of the country.
In addition, life-saving drugs are not offered evenly across the country, and some women receive the care of specialist nurses unavailable elsewhere.
Workforce shortages are also a significant factor, with 13% of all radiology posts currently vacant, and one in five radiographers due to retire within the next five years.
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.
In a joint statement, MPs Thangam Debonnaire, Craig Tracey and Dr Philippa Whitford, who co-chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer, said: "Our inquiry has uncovered a concerning postcode lottery in screening uptake, early diagnosis and access to breast cancer services across England.
"This variation in NHS services can have a devastating impact on patients' lives and must be addressed.
"In particular, the demographic time bomb facing the breast cancer workforce poses a worrying threat to the significant progress made in recent decades.
"We now urgently need to bring the worst performing areas in line with the best. While such inequalities exist, we cannot hope to meet the Government's ambition of world-class outcomes for all NHS cancer patients."
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at the charity Breast Cancer Now, added: "All women with breast cancer deserve the best possible chance of surviving and living well, no matter where they live, their age or the colour of their skin.
"This alarming report shows many women are missing out on the best breast cancer care this country has to offer, and this is totally unacceptable."
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Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: "We have made huge progress on tackling cancer with survival rates at a record high.
"Our NHS breast screening programme is estimated to save 1,300 lives a year alone, but we know we need to go further. That’s why we’ve committed £200m to find innovative ways to drive earlier diagnosis and support people living with and beyond cancer so we can reach our goal of saving a further 30,000 lives a year by 2020."