A failure by doctors to test routinely for the spreadof cancer among diagnosed patients was blamed yesterday for the deaths of hundreds of women in Scotland.

A failure by doctors to test routinely for the spreadof cancer among diagnosed patients was blamed yesterday for the deaths of hundreds of women in Scotland.

A report compiled for the charity Cancer Research UK claims that some surgeons operating on women suffering from cancer of the womb neglect follow-up examinations to check the extent to which the disease may have spread.

Experts estimated that 25 per cent of women diagnosed with endometrial cancer, which affects the lining of the womb, die within five years of diagnosis. Although it is the second most common gynaecological form of the disease in Britain, the cancer is easily treated if detected in the early stages.

A study on 700 women in Scotland diagnosed with the disease between 1996 and 1997 discovered that surgeons failed to assess properly the spread of the cancer in two thirds of cases.

The report in the British Journal of Cancer claims that a lack of trained specialists and growing pressure on qualified surgeons have caused death rates to be higher in cancer cases where the recognised guidelines for tests were neglected. It said trained specialists were more likely to run the full range of tests.

"This is a very sad situation because cancer is one of the major killers in this country. We know there is a shortage of specialists but that is no excuse," said Richard Sullivan, head of clinical programmes at Cancer Research UK.

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