Bowel cancer is a topic that most people shy away from. Anything to do with bowels tends to send people into an embarrassed wreck. Thankfully over the recent year or so awareness of bowel cancer is being promoted a lot more through television adverts. On the back of this the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is announcing a programme looking into bowel cancer screening that has the potential to save many lives.
The Current Method
At the moment bowel screening is offered almost exclusively to adults between 60 and 69 where a thin camera is placed into the rectum of an individual. If there are any abnormal growths or blood found in any faecal samples, the individual is then invited back to have a colonoscopy of the entire length of the bowel.
The new pilot study will invite younger adults with no symptoms to participate in a sigmoidoscopy, a method that is very much like current screening. By offering a sigmoidoscopy to younger adults, any growths that have the potential to become cancerous can be identified at a very early stage and removed.
Like most cancers, catching it early results in a huge increase in the effectiveness of its treatment. In the instance of bowel cancer, which will be diagnosed in 1 in 20 people and causes the second most cancer deaths in the UK, catching the disease as early as possible is vital. According to the article on the BBC News website, mortality rates in England are10-15% higher than in other countries such as Australia, Canada or Sweden. It is therefore a matter of great concern as bowel cancers are predicted to increase within the next generation through the current binge-drinking and smoking attitudes of the population.
When considering this is a test into bowel cancer which quite rightly is being treated with such urgency for earlier diagnostic tests, then perhaps testing into other cancers with high mortality rates can be achieved? Now obviously there are financial issues that will stand in the way of early screening for every cancer otherwise survival rates would be much higher than they currently are. But what about the cancers with extremely low survival rates such as pancreatic cancer? Being diagnosed with such a disease is damning and the chances of survival are incredibly low.
Earlier screening for bowel cancer is definitely the way forward to combat potentially rising mortality rates and I’m hoping this will set a precedent for further screening protocols with other such dangerous forms of the disease.
The BBC News article called ‘Bowel Cancer Screening Pilot to Begin in England’:
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