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Bowel Screening - The Bottom Line

January 09, 2009 3:33 PM

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This year will see the launch of the biggest single Scottish cancer screening programme being rolled out across Greater Glasgow and Clyde with 137 lives potentially being saved through the programme.

From April, 307,000 men and women turning 50 and over will be invited to take part in the new bowel screening programme.

When a diagnosis of bowel cancer is made at an early stage, cure rates exceed 90%. So with early diagnosis making all the difference in treating bowel cancer, it’s anticipated that around 137 new potentially curable cases will be diagnosed and treated in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

This is the first screening programme to detect bowel cancer and will target both men and women aged between 50 and 74 years of age. Everyone in the age group will be invited to participate over a two year period and then every second year.

An easy to use screening kit will be sent to people’s homes where a simple test can be carried out in private and returned to a consultant-led laboratory in the pre-paid envelope provided.

This new screening programme will look for bowel cancer at a stage before it causes any complaints or symptoms.

Raising awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer, including bleeding from the bottom or blood in stools, a change in bowel habits to looser or more often bowel motions, a pain or lump in the abdomen, and extreme tiredness without an obvious cause, will reduce the risks further if they are treated early.

Dr Emilia Crighton, Consultant in Public Health, says not everyone realises how important screening can be.

She said: “Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK and affects both men and women alike and as we get older the risk increases with nine out of 10 cases in people over 50. However, when detected early it can be treated effectively and many people can be cured.
“Within Greater Glasgow and Clyde there are approximately 750 – 830 new bowel cancer cases each year and approximately 350 – 400 deaths. It is essential that people use the kits and not be embarrassed or afraid to send us samples. The vast majority of results are perfectly normal. For the minority of people who do have positive results screening will mean early detection, quicker treatment and a greater chance of a cure.

“However, while the screening programme will help detect some new cases we would encourage anyone with these symptoms not to ignore them and contact their GP as soon as possible.”

The risks of developing bowel cancer can also be greatly reduced through dietary and physical factors. There is consistent evidence that some form of regular exercise is associated with a reduction in bowel cancer. If people can reduce their risk factors including obesity, lack of exercise and long-term smoking this will also make major difference.


Notes to Editors

It is estimated that in Greater Glasgow and Clyde 307,000 people will be sent screening kits and invited to return samples over two years.

There is a very small chance that a number of samples will test positive when there is nothing wrong at all. About 10 out of 500 people who complete the test will have a positive result. Of those 10 people it is likely that four will have polyps (these are small wart-like growths that can be removed) and one will have cancer.

Assuming an uptake of 50 – 52% we anticipate that each year 1628 people will have a positive screening result, of whom 1391 will go on to have a colonoscopy and 137 will be diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Research has shown that people who are involved in active jobs or physical activity are less likely to develop bowel cancer. This is due to a number of factors:

• Physical activity leads to regular bowel movements. In this way cancer causing substances in undigested food pass through the bowel more quickly.
• Physical activity reduces the levels of insulin, some hormones and some growth factors. At high levels these substances can encourage the growth of tumours.
• Physical activity can reduce inflammation in the bowel which might otherwise lead to bowel cancer.

For further information contact 0141 201 4429.

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Last Updated: 11 November 2021