Beating bowel cancer together

Screening extended in Wales to include those aged 58 and 59

Tuesday 12 October 2021

From this month (October 2021) the Bowel Screening Wales programme will begin inviting people aged 58 and 59 years old for the first time for bowel cancer screening. This will be alongside those aged 60 to 74 years old who are already invited.

Bowel cancer screening can save lives. Screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage, when treatment has the best chance of working. The test can also find polyps (non-cancerous growths), which might develop into cancer.

Evidence shows that screening people at a younger age would enable more bowel cancers to be picked up at an earlier stage, where treatment is likely to be more effective and survival chances improved. Men and women, aged 58 to 74, will be invited for bowel screening with a free NHS test kit sent to their homes every two years.

Dr Sharon Hillier, Director for Screening in Public Health Wales, said: "Our screening programmes in Wales continue to recover following the impact of the pandemic and we are pleased that we are now able to start to offer younger people bowel screening.

"Bowel screening reduces the risk of people in Wales dying from bowel cancer and every year the programme tests over 150,000 kits and from these we are able to identify hundreds of participants who can be offered further investigation or treatment."

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, says: "Screening is one of the best ways to diagnose bowel cancer early, or in some cases prevent it from developing in the first place.

It's great news that the screening age has expanded in Wales and we welcome the commitment by NHS Wales to ensure, over the next four years, everyone aged 50-74 is sent a test every two years, with improved sensitivity. Progress towards fully implementing the UK National Screening Committee recommendations on bowel screening will require increased capacity in endoscopy and pathology services. When the upcoming Spending Review has been completed the Welsh Government must invest in multi-year long term funding to train more staff in cancer services."

From April 2021, the NHS in England began to gradually reduce the age range for bowel screening. This will be phased over the next four years to include people aged 50-59. In Scotland, screening starts from 50 and in Northern Ireland people over 60 are invited to take part.

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