Bowel cancer screening programme

ALL men and women between the age of 60-70 years and registered with a GP in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust (PCT) area are being invited to take part in the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.

ALL men and women between the age of 60-70 years and registered with a GP in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust (PCT) area are being invited to take part in the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.

In June 2009, this screening programme will be extended to cover up to the age of 75 years.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) was one of the very first sites in the country to introduce the new national screening programme to help detect bowel cancer at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be effective.

The NNUH team is working in partnership with the James Paget University Hospitals, at Gorleston, and with this screening programme approximately one death from bowel cancer per week will be prevented across the Norfolk and Waveney area.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK . Around 80 per cent of bowel cancers arise in people who are over 60.

There are around 35,000 cases of bowel cancer identified in the UK each year. There are approximately 16,000 deaths a year from bowel cancer. Although bowel cancer affects more than one in 20 people in their lifetime, 90 per cent survive if it is caught early

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(Source: CRUK).

Bowel cancer can be detected early by testing the stool for minute traces of blood. Studies have shown that this allows detection of early cancers and so higher cure rates. The NHS introduced a National Screening programme for Bowel Cancer in 2006.

The benefits of screening are proportional to uptake. Across Norfolk, uptake with the programme is 60pc, but this figure is lower in urban areas and higher in rural communities. In Norfolk, the lowest uptake rates are in some areas of Great Yarmouth at 36pc.

People with a positive stool test are invited to have an examination of their bowel - a colonoscopy, performed at the Norfolk and Norwich.

To date in Norfolk, 12pc of people with a positive stool test have been found to have cancer, 50pc have precancerous polyps which have been removed and 33pc have been normal. The cancers detected have been at an earlier stage than we usually find leading to higher cure rates.

Dr Bernard Brett, James Paget's consultant gastroenterologist, said: "This service brings real benefits to the population of the Great Yarmouth and Waveney area. It will save lives from bowel cancer as well as prevent the need for surgery in some individuals. This will be of benefit not only to the men and women identified through the screening programme but also to their relatives, and friends. Please take up this opportunity; this is something that could make a huge difference to you, your family and friends.'

Dr Alistair Lipp, director of public health for Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT, said: "This is a really positive public health initiative. A simple test carried out in the privacy of someone's home can save lives and make a difference to individuals and their families. We would urge everyone to take up this opportunity."

Everyone over 60 are being encouraged to take the test which is simple to do and can be done in the privacy of their home. It involves collecting a small sample from three separate bowel motions and, using a specially designed prepaid envelope, returning the kit to the laboratory for analysis.

The laboratory analyses the samples, looking for tiny traces of blood that may be invisible to the naked eye. The test does not diagnose bowel cancer but gives an indication as to whether further investigations are required.

The bowel cancer screening team at NNUH is led by Dr Richard Tighe. Once a test result indicates there might be a problem the specialist nurses will see people at a clinic at the JPUH. People who then need a colonoscopy will have it undertaken at NNUH by Dr Bernard Brett or other consultant endoscopists involved in the screening programme.

A leaflet entitled Bowel Cancer Screening - The Facts will be sent to everyone with their invitation to help them make an informed choice about whether or not to take up the opportunity of screening. This leaflet explains bowel cancer screening and the benefits and limitations of the test. Step-by-step instructions for completing the test at home are being sent out with the test kit and further support is available from a freephone helpline on 0800 707 60 60.

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