People aged 51-54 in Wales will now automatically receive at-home bowel screening tests and early detection can save lives.
Almost nine out of ten people survive bowel cancer when it is detected and treated earlier on.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan is urging people to use their kit when it arrives in the post.
Even in the early stages of bowel cancer, you may feel well. So screening is vital to detect cancers before symptoms show, and early detection and treatment drastically improve survival rates, she said.
Starting from today (Wednesday 4 October), people aged 51-54 who are registered with a GP in Wales will be offered self-screening for bowel cancer, and will automatically receive an easy to use, bowel screening kit in the post every two years.
The programme will come into full effect for the newly eligible age group gradually over the next year.
Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in Wales. Between 2018-2020 there were nearly 7000 registered cases of bowel cancer, but the survival rate is high.
Completing a home test kit is part of the bowel screening process. In 2019, the Welsh Government introduced a new, easy to use, FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) at-home testing kit. With increased sensitivity, the kit can better detect bowel cancer in those who are at risk and has contributed to an improved screening uptake of 65% in the current age cohort of men and women aged 55 to 74.
The move is part of a phased approach to lower the screening age to 50, based on the recommendation of the UK National Screening Committee.
Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said:
I am very pleased to see more people in Wales having access to these precautionary, and sometimes lifesaving, bowel screenings.
Last year, we widened access to bowel cancer screening to those aged 55-57. This next phase will now extend screening to people aged between 51-54 and we plan to lower the age to 50 in 2024.
Over the next two years we are also increasing the sensitivity of the test to make it even more effective at detecting cancer.
Although it is reassuring to see good uptake rates of the screening test so far, around a third of people still don’t take up the offer. So, I would encourage everyone who is sent a kit to take the test as it could be life-saving.
Steve Court, Head of Bowel Screening Wales at Public Health Wales, said:
I’m delighted that we’re expanding the bowel cancer screening programme to include those aged 51 to 54 in Wales.
Bowel screening can help find bowel cancer at an early stage, when you don’t have any symptoms. Early detection is so important because at least 9 out of 10 people will survive bowel cancer if it’s found and treated early. Bowel screening also detects and removes pre-cancerous polyps that if left in the bowel could develop into cancer.
The invitation and test kit will be arriving via post to those who are eligible over the next 12 months. The home test kit is easy to complete and to send to our laboratory for analysis.
I would urge everyone who receives an invitation to take up their offer. It could save their life.
Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK says:
This is fantastic news and a massive step in the right direction towards screening from 50 in Wales, which we’ve long campaigned for. Screening is one of the best ways to diagnose bowel cancer early, when it’s much easier to treat, or in some cases prevent it from developing in the first place, and so inviting more people to take part is welcomed. We encourage everyone to complete the test when they receive it.