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Cancer charity calls for test prompts

31 March 2016 09:41

Bowel cancer screening may help prevent the disease

Bowel cancer screening may help prevent the disease

A simple reminder letter could be the difference between some people surviving bowel cancer or dying from the disease, according to new research.

It finds that a bowel-screening memory jogger would lead to a greater take-up of the scans and subsequent faster diagnoses and better survival rates.

Study author Cancer Research UK (CRUK) says most people do not accept current offers of bowel scope screenings which could potentially save their life.

The one-off test is offered to people once they turn 55. It seeks to locate and eliminate polyps with the potential to develop into cancer.

Stat attack

CRUK says that:

• only 40-50% of people offered screenings go and have them done

• nearly one in five (30 out of 155) who originally ignored the first invitation booked an appointment after getting a reminder a year later. This reminder includes details of how they can reserve an appointment, pick their own date and time, and specify their preferred sex of tester

• the screening helps prevent two out of every 300 patients tested from developing bowel cancer

• the test stops one in every 300 patients screened from dying of bowel cancer

• bowel cancer remains the UK's second largest cancer killer

Holiday plans

Bowel or bladder cancer need not hamper people's travel plans.

Holidaymakers can take out bowel cancer-related travel insurance. This insurance can cover them for lost medication, round-the-clock medical attention and stolen travel documents and possessions.

What the experts say

University College London's Christian von Wagner wants further investigations into reminder letters to test their effectiveness.

Dr von Wagner, the report's lead author, says the letter is both simple and cheap.

CRUK's bowel cancer specialist Matt Seymour says such screenings can only be successful if patients actually arrive for their tests.

Prof Seymour says he is pleased to discover that just a simple reminder can make all the difference between people attending or staying at home.

He says it is key that people get easy-to-understand bowel screening information at their fingertips.

The British Journal of Cancer published the study.