Bowel cancer screening delay 'risking lives' in Wales

Cancer cells Image copyright Thinkstock

A delay in implementing new ways to screen for bowel cancer in Wales is risking lives, a charity has said.

The UK body advising the health service recommended a new test is introduced which is easier for people to complete at home.

Officials said it may put more pressure on services to diagnose and treat the cancer, such as colonoscopies.

Public Health Wales is planning rolling out new testing kits while the Welsh Government considers the implications.

Bowel Cancer UK said the wait meant "lives are being lost".

Currently, anyone aged 60-74 and registered with a family doctor in Wales gets a bowel cancer testing kit through the post every two years.

These tests compare three stool samples over a two-week period to see if there are any traces of blood present - one of the tell-tale signs that something might be wrong.

'Accurate and easier'

The new test, called a faecal immunochemical test (Fit) requires just one sample to be tested.

It means it is less time-consuming for patients, which in turn makes them more likely to complete and return their samples for testing.

"Bowel cancer screening saves lives so we must ensure more people complete and return the test when they receive it in the post," Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said.

"Screening can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms, when it is easier to treat."

She said the best way to improve screening uptake was to introduce the Fit tests.

"The test has been proven to be more accurate and easier for people to complete," she said.

Image copyright Thinkstock

Bowel cancer is the third biggest cancer killer in Wales with 1,000 people dying every year. If it is diagnosed at the earliest stages it is treatable and most patients survive.

The UK National Screening Committee recommended introducing the new tests earlier this year and the issue was raised by the Welsh Screening Committee in January.

The Welsh Government is considering increased pressure on the NHS and is expected to report back to the next meeting of the Welsh Screening Committee.

A spokesman for the government said: "Earlier this year the Wales Screening Committee confirmed that Public Health Wales should continue with their planning to introduce Fit testing so as not to cause any unnecessary delays."

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