Cancer Research UK has raised concerns after more than half of a group of 21,000 people turned down the chance to be involved in a new screening programme that could help to prevent them from developing bowel cancer. Of the 21,000 people who were invited, only 42% of women and 45% of men accepted the invitation to participate in the new screening test.
The NHS Bowel Scope Screening Programme is currently on trial in six areas of the country and it is hoped that it will be available throughout England by 2018. The test, which consists of a single short appointment, involves inserting a tiny camera inside the bowel using a flexible tube. The aim is to check for warning signs and the test would be available to people aged over 50 years old. Studies have so far suggested that the test could help to decrease the number of bowel cancer cases by 33% and reduce death rates by 43%. As 95% of bowel cancer cases are found in people aged over 50, the screening scheme would be restricted to over 50’s.
Although uptake for the initial screening tests was relatively low, representatives from Cancer Research UK said that it was still very early days and the numbers were not too alarming, given that people do not know much about the test. The research team found that people from less affluent areas were less likely to take up the invitation than those from wealthier backgrounds.
Dr Christian von Wagner is senior lecturer in behavioural research related to early diagnosis in cancer cases at University College London. He said that the screening test has not been publicised by the NHS yet and people tend to be less familiar with bowel cancer screening than other types of screening tests, such as mammograms and cervical smear tests. Dr von Wagner is now using the information to find out why uptake is lower in poorer areas and identify ways to encourage people to have the test and raise awareness of the importance of bowel cancer screening.