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Over half 'ignoring bowel cancer tests'

28 September 2015 09:32

Many people are not attending bowel cancer tests

Many people are not attending bowel cancer tests

A potentially life-saving bowel cancer test is being shunned by hundreds of thousands of people, Cancer Research UK says.

Following a pilot study in six parts of England, the charity says over half the people invited to be tested under the NHS Bowel Scope Screening Programme failed to turn up for their appointment.

In more disadvantaged areas, it adds, only one in three people took up the invitation compared to over half in the most affluent neighbourhoods.

Cancer Research UK has published data from around 21,000 people who had been invited for the new tests in areas including Kent, Norwich, Guildford and Wolverhampton.

Published in the Journal of Medical Screening, the data shows that while 45% of men attended their appointments, only 42% of women took the test, which is being rolled out across the country.

Early diagnosis of cancer can save lives, enabling people to continue doing the things they enjoy such as going on holiday, covered by a cancer travel insurance policy.

The charity believes the test could cut bowel cancer deaths by over 40% and reduce the number of cases by a third - if people attend their appointments.

Dr Christian von Wagner, of University College London, says people's reasons for not taking up their invitations included feeling embarrassed about undergoing the procedure and difficulty getting time off work to attend.

He says more research is now being carried out in a bid to see what can be done to increase the uptake of the test.

The one-off test, which is now on offer at almost three quarters of England's bowel cancer screening centres, is offered to people aged 55.

It involves looking inside the large bowel with a minute camera at the end of a thin, flexible tube.

The test can detect polyps - pre-cancerous growths - enabling them to be removed before they become cancerous.

In the UK, bowel cancer kills more people than any other form of the disease apart from lung cancer, claiming some 16,200 lives each and every year.

All but one in 20 cases of the disease are in people aged 50 and above.