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England’s Bowel Cancer Screening to Begin 10 Years Earlier

Public Health England has announced that Bowel Cancer Screening will now begin 10 years earlier than it currently does.

At present, men and women in England are invited for their first screening and sent a home testing kit at the age of 60, however, evidence has shown that screening at a younger age would allow for more cancers to be picked up during their early stages.

Screening will now be offered to individuals when they reach the age of 50; the age it is already automatically offered to those living within Scotland.

It was recently recommended that screening should begin at the same age in England as it does in Scotland, as this would allow for bowel cancer in individuals to be picked up during earlier stages. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary has agreed to this, and it is currently being decided how the plan will be rolled out.

From Autumn, those aged 60 and over will receive an improved test, called a faecal immunochemical home test kit, and in future, these kits will be sent to everyone in England from the age of 50.

Director of screening at Public Health England, Professor Anne Mackie, said “The risk of bowel cancer rises steeply from around age 50-54 and rates are significantly higher among males than females. Starting screening 10 years earlier at 50 will help spot more abnormalities at an early stage that could develop into bowel cancer if not detected.”

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with 42,000 people diagnosed every year; at present, around 16,000 people die each year from cancer within the UK.

Public Health Minister, Steve Brine, said “With the roll out of the FIT as a new bowel screening test from the autumn – a much more convenient and reliable test – we have a real opportunity to reshape our bowel screening programme and potentially detect the stages of bowel cancer much earlier. We are now considering opportunities and taking expert advice on how a sustainable, optimal bowel cancer screening programme starting at age 50 can work in the future.”

Cancer Research UK have stated that they are “delighted” with the governments decision to lower the screening age, as, with many other cancers, the earlier bowel cancer is detected then the higher the chances are of survival. If it is diagnosed during an early stage, then 9 out of 10 people with bowel cancer will survive, whereas if it is detected at a later stage, then this rate falls to just 1 in 10.

 

BBC News. ‘Bowel Cancer Screening to Start Earlier at Age 50 in England.’ BBC News Online.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45143895  (13 August 2018).

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