Date Published: 2 August 2005

New UK Screening Programme for Bowel Cancer

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

Today, 2 August 2005, the UK Department Health announced that all 60-69 year olds will be offered screening for bowel cancer, a disease that is the second largest cause of cancer deaths in the UK and killed 16,000 people in 2003.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton announced that a national bowel cancer screening programme would be phased in, starting from April 2006.

Men and women aged 60-69 years old will be screened every two years. The programme will cost £37 million in its first two years.

It is the first time such a programme will operate in England and one of the first of its kind in Europe.

Home testing kits will be sent to around two million people in the target group each year to enable them to do the test in the privacy of their own homes. The person then sends the kit back to a laboratory where it will be analysed.

Rosie Winterton said:

"Preventing cancer and improving services for those who develop the disease is a priority for the Government.
_The NHS has already made significant progress in reducing deaths from bowel cancer, with mortality rates falling by 17 per cent over the last ten years.
_The roll-out of the national screening programme for bowel cancer that I am announcing today will help save even more lives.
_Although bowel cancer affects more than one in 20 people in their lifetime, of those who get the disease 90% survive if it is caught early.
_Because of the nature of the disease, people can feel uncomfortable talking about it, let alone coping with the symptoms. That is why the privacy and dignity that the home testing kits afford will help us better tackle the disease

Welcoming the announcement, Hilary Whittaker, Chief Executive of the national charity Beating Bowel Cancer, said:

"We fully support the implementation of the new NHS bowel cancer screening programme. Bowel cancer is a huge disease in this country, killing almost 50 people every day, and we believe that the screening programme will be a positive step in reducing the number of deaths from this cancer, as well as raising awareness of bowel cancer amongst the general public."

From April 2006 the NHS will begin inviting men and women aged 60-69 to be screened for bowel cancer in some parts of the country. The screening test can be performed by you at home and may detect bowel cancer well before you develop any symptoms. It is expected that everyone in their 60's will be invited for screening by 2009.

General Information about Bowel Cancer:

  • What is bowel cancer ? - Bowel cancer is a disease of the large bowel (colon) or rectum. It is also sometimes called colorectal or colon cancer.
    It is the second largest cause of cancer deaths in the UK.
  • What causes bowel cancer ? - Experts do not know precisely what causes most bowel cancers, and in many cases there are no obvious causes. The probability of an individual contracting bowel cancer is thought to be affected by diet, lifestyle and family history.
  • How many people are affected by bowel cancer ? - In 2001 there were 34,539 new cases of bowel cancer in the UK. In 2003 there were 16,107 deaths from bowel cancer in the UK. According to current statistics, approx. one in 20 people in the UK (that is, 5%) are expected to contract bowel cancer at some point in their life.It affects men and women equally.

Other comments about this news item:

Ian Banks, President of the Men's Health Forum:

" Men are traditionally reluctant to seek advice from their doctor when they have a medical problem. This is made worse when it is 'below the belt'. This initiative may help stop men literally dying from embarrassment."

Lynn Faulds-Wood of Lynn's Bowel Cancer Campaign and Chairman, European Cancer Patient Coalition:

" I survived advanced bowel cancer and I've been investigating how to help save lives from bowel cancer for years - screening, in my opinion, is the best way and I am delighted that the Dept of Health is launching its bowel cancer screening programme - it will prevent thousands of people from dying of this common cancer over the years."

Source: UK Department of Health

Also in the News:

By 2043 obesity might exceed smoking as the largest preventable cause of cancer in women - 25 Sep '18

Brits walk less than one mile per day - 25 May '17

Double genomes associated with poor cancer survival - 22 Jan '14

Patients want advice about bowel cancer screening - 5 Dec '12

Study re. experiences and needs following primary treatment of colorectal cancer - 17 May '12

Bowel cancer screening in England cuts bowel cancer deaths - 9 Dec '11

Survivors of childhood cancers at increased risk of other cancers later in life - 4 Jun '11

Colon Cancer Treatment in Ireland - 12 Apr '11

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