Warning about low bowel cancer screening rates

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Campaigners have said that bowel cancer screening uptake needs to be improved. This comes after figures were revealed which indicate that just over 50% of people eligible for the tests have used it.

The new figures have shown that in certain areas in London, only 42% of people eligible for bowel screening have made use of the system, compared to around 66% in Dorset.

The charity Beating Bowel Cancer said that the huge discrepancies show that the NHS should do more to encourage individuals to step forward and obtain screening. This could save their lives.

The bowel screening tests which are currently available, faecal occult blood tests are sent to people between the ages of 60 and 74 by post every two years.

A parliamentary answer show’s figures have revealed that the overall uptake for these tests in England is only 58%. This is much lower than other cancer programmes. Breast cancer screening uptake is at 72% and cervical cancer at 79%. The data indicated that west London endured the lowest figures.

Beating Bowel Cancer obtained the figures via a parliamentary question and has stated that if the uptake was to increase, it could save thousands of lives.

The Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, Mark Flannagan, has said that they need to do better than the current situation. He said that result of the uptake should not be dependent upon where you reside. The statistics are indicating inexplicable and unacceptable variations across the country. He said that they are fully aware that bowel cancer screening can save thousands of lives by providing an early diagnosis, yet the numbers who are actually making use of this programme are less than 50%.

He stated that most people are being diagnosed too late when the disease is in its advanced stages and extremely difficult to treat. If the disease is caught during the early stages, in excess of 90% of cases can have successful treatment. This indicates that if uptake was increased to the level of cervical cancer screening, thousands of lives would be saved.

Image credit: Simon James

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