Page last updated at 06:53 GMT, Monday, 27 October 2008

'No shame' plea in cancer screen

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No need to 'die of embarrassment'

A programme aimed at cutting deaths from bowel cancer in Wales is starting with a plea to men to overcome any embarrassment and check their health.

People aged 60-69 are being sent home screening test kits, and organisers say it is the first scheme to cover men as well as women.

They aim to cut deaths by 15%, but they say they need men to get involved.

Programme head Hilary Fielder said: "To make bowel screening a success, we need to break through the embarrassment."

By 2015 the screening programme will cover everyone from the ages of 50 to 74.

While bowel cancer remains the third biggest killer disease in Wales, 90% of cases caught early are treatable.

Just doing a simple thing in the privacy of your bathroom for three mornings is not a big deal
Clinical oncologist Dr Tim Maughan

Dr Fielder, director of Bowel Screening Wales, said: "We know that men often find it difficult to take care of their health.

"Some find the subject, and bowel cancer in particular, embarrassing."

It is for that reason the screening programme will rely on testing kits which can be used in the privacy of the home.

A new laboratory and testing system has been set up by the Velindre NHS Trust to deal with the screening kits, which will be returned by post.

If the tests reveal any abnormal results, patients can then be offered further medical investigations.

Public health problem

"Bowel cancer is the third biggest killer of men and women in Wales," added Dr Fielder.

"Screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms. This is when treatment is more likely to be effective."

The scheme is set to be extended after two years to people aged up to 74, and after seven years it is hoped it will cover everyone living in Wales from the ages of 50 to 74.

Dr Tim Maughan, consultant clinical oncologist at Velindre hospital in Cardiff, said: "It affects 2,000 people every year in Wales and 1,000 of those people die so it's a really big public health problem.

"The tests, which are a test on the faeces where you take a tiny sample one a day for three days, will save 160 lives. That's the prediction from the data we have, so it's going to be a really big change.

Show on the road

"Just doing a simple thing in the privacy of your bathroom for three mornings is not a big deal.

"Please do what you're asked - take your samples, send it back. Let's get this show on the road."

Offering the tests every two years to those age groups is expected to cost nearly 9m a year by 2015.

Health Minister Edwina Hart said the new programme would build on the success of two current cancer screening schemes in Wales, for breast and cervical cancer.

"The risk of developing bowel cancer increases with age, which is why the initial roll-out of the programme is focusing on the age group most at risk," she said.

"This new service is expected to reduce mortality from bowel cancer by 15% in the screened population."

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