Warning over low rates of cancer screening

Warning over low rates of cancer screening

Cancer patients are dying because of “unacceptable variation” in take-up of screening in different parts of the country, a leading charity has warned.


New data reveals that in parts of London, just 42 per cent of those eligible for bowel cancer screening come forward, compared to 66 per cent of those living in Dorset.


Beating Bowel Cancer said the large discrepancies suggested that parts of the NHS needed to do more to encourage people to come forward for screening which could save their lives.


The current bowel cancer screening tests, called faecal occult blood tests, are sent in the post to everyone aged between 60 and 74 every two years.


Figures revealed in a parliamentary answer show that overall uptake for the tests in England is now 58 per cent, far lower than other programmes, such as breast cancer screening, at 72 per cent, while cervical cancer has 79 per cent take-up.


The lowest figures were in west London, the data shows.

The charity, which obtained the figures through a parliamentary question, said thousands of lives could be saved if uptake was increased.


Mark Flannagan, the charity’s chief executive said: “We must do better than this; we simply can’t have the situation where outcomes depend on where you live. These statistics show unacceptable variations across the country that can’t be explained. We know that bowel cancer screening saves lives by leading to earlier diagnosis, yet in some areas fewer than half of those eligible are actually taking it up.


“The majority of people are still being diagnosed with bowel cancer too late when it’s more advanced and difficult to treat. More than 90 per cent of cases can be treated successfully when caught in the early stages, so if uptake was to increase to be equal to cervical cancer screening, we have the potential to save thousands of lives.”


By Laura Donnelly, Wednesday 16th April 2014


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