Bowel Cancer Screening Rolled Out

Up to 150 lives could be saved each year thanks to the rollout of a national bowel cancer screening programme, it was announced today. The move will see the introduction of a nationwide scheme targeting all men and women in Scotland aged between 50 and 74.

When implementation is complete around 650,000 people will be issued with home test kits every year and individuals will be screened once every two years. A campaign to increase awareness is also being launched in conjunction with today’s announcement.

Health Minister Andy Kerr said: “When it comes to cancer, early diagnosis and treatment can mean the difference between life and death. That’s why we’re investing £9 million a year in rolling out the UK’s most comprehensive bowel screening programme.

“Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland. Once up and running, we hope to be screening well over half a million people annually. Evidence shows this will save around 150 lives every year.

“Experts have suggested that after the smoking ban, this is the most significant policy decision in the cancer area for many years. That said, a screening programme can only be successful if people participate in it, and I would encourage anyone who receives a test kit to take part.”

The roll-out of the programme has also been welcomed by those working in the field. Tim Searles, Head of Operations Scotland at Bowel Cancer UK said: “Bowel Cancer UK warmly welcomes the launch of the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme today and we wish it every success. We will be fully supporting and helping its roll-out.”

Hilary Whittaker, Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer added: “There is no doubt that bowel cancer screening will save lives. Bowel cancer is the second biggest cause of cancer deaths in the UK, but if picked up early enough, it can be very treatable. Targeting the 50-74 year old age group will make this programme the first of its kind in Britain and we congratulate Scotland on leading the way.”

The communications campaign to support the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme will start from now. The first phase of the roll out commences in June, with all Boards involved in the programme by 2009. This follows a successful pilot which has been running in Tayside, Grampian and Fife since 2000.

The Scottish Bowel Screening Centre will be situated at Kings Cross in Dundee, from where all test kits will be issued, returned and tested. The centre will also host a helpline facility.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland with 3365 new cases diagnosed in 2003, the last year for which statistics are available. The number of bowel cancer deaths recorded in 2005 was 1,550. The five year relative survival rate for patients diagnosed between 1997 and 2001 was just over 50 per cent.