Hundreds of thousands of people in their 50s across the East Midlands are being denied the chance to catch bowel cancer early because they are not being screened.
Charity Beating Bowel Cancer claims more than 626,900 people in the region are missing out on the opportunity of being diagnosed with bowel cancer through the national screening programme at an early stage, when it can be successfully treated.
In the last two months, nearly 7,000 cancer patients, their families and supporters throughout the UK have sent letters to their MPs urging them to support a campaign to lower the bowel cancer screening age to 50.
This follows the charity Beating Bowel Cancer’s call in January for the screening age to be equalised throughout the UK. Currently the age is 60 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but 50 in Scotland.
Judith Brodie, acting chief executive at Beating Bowel Cancer said: “Around 41,000 people a year are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK and more than one in ten of them are in their 50s. However, only those in Scotland are currently given the same chance of an early diagnosis as the over 60s.
“If diagnosed at an early stage 97 per cent of cases can be successfully treated but this drops to just seven per cent if diagnosed at a late stage. You’re far more likely to be diagnosed at an early stage through screening than via your GP or A and E. So it’s shocking that currently over 626,900 people in the East Midlands alone are being denied the chance of an early diagnosis via screening.”
Bowel cancer survivor Janet Bates 64, from Derbyshire, was diagnosed via the screening programme at the age of 60.
She said: “I hadn’t had a single symptom, so I had no idea that anything was wrong. When the kit came through the door, I thought I might as well complete it. I was diagnosed with bowel cancer but thankfully it was caught very early, so I had surgery and didn’t need chemotherapy. But many are not so lucky and their cancer is not diagnosed until a late stage when they are in their 60s. If screening started at 50, many more cancers could be diagnose at an early stage.
The charity, bowel cancer patients and others who are supporting the campaign hope to persuade MPs to put pressure on the Health Minister to consider equalising the screening age throughout the UK. Visit www.beatingbowelcancer.org for more.