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05 Oct 2022

Clinical Negligence

Bowel cancer screening age lowered in Wales

Bowel cancer screening will be made available to more people in Wales from today (5th October), as home testing is expanded to include 55 to 57 year olds.

Bowel cancer screening will be made available to more people in Wales from today (5th October), as home testing is expanded to include 55 to 57 year olds. The expansion will mean an additional 172,000 more people in Wales will start to receive the easy to use kits, to test for the early stages of Bowel Cancer and it comes as part of the Welsh Government’s phased approach to lowering the screening age to 50 by October 2024. The home test kits will start to land on the doorsteps of 55-57 year olds from today, with the programme being rolled out to the newly-eligible group over the next 12 months.

More than 2,500 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2019. Screening plays an important role in detecting cancer earlier and helps to improve cancer outcomes in Wales.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum. The cells in your body normally divide and grow in a controlled way, but when cancer develops, the cells change and can grow in an uncontrolled way.

Unfortunately, bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer that affects the UK population.

Sadly, every 15 minutes somebody is diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK, which is roughly 43,000 people each year. Bowel cancer develops from polyps (a tiny bump of cells inside the bowel). Most polyps remain benign, but about 1 in 10 will turn into cancer.

Encouragingly, bowel cancer survival is improving and has more than doubled in the last 40 years in the UK. While these statistics are good progress, you should make sure that you are aware of symptoms and your risk level to stay vigilant.

Diagnosing bowel cancer

If bowel cancer is caught in the early stages, there is a greater than 90% chance of a cure. This is why it is crucial to know the common symptoms. The three main symptoms are:

  • Bleeding from the bowel
  • Change in bowel habit (such as unusual episodes of diarrhea or constipation)
  • Abdominal pain or weight loss

It is important to note that other health problems can also cause these symptoms, so if you are worried, it’s always best to speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

If you go to your GP with your concerns, they may decide to examine you for lumps, arrange for a blood test, or arrange for you to have a simple test in hospital.

Causes of bowel cancer

There are many reasons why a person can develop bowel cancer. Some factors such as family history and age are unfortunately out of your control and if you have a close relative (mother or father, brother or sister) who developed bowel cancer under the age of 50, this can put you at a greater risk of developing the condition. Screening is offered to people in this situation, and you should discuss this with a GP to understand what to do next.

There are, however, certain lifestyle habits that can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer. A diet that is high in red or processed meats, and foods low in fibre can be one reason, as well as being inactive, drinking alcohol or being overweight. Leading a healthy lifestyle is always encouraged, and making small changes to your habits can really help you to stay well.

What treatment is available?

Bowel cancer can be treated using several different treatments. The treatment you receive will depend on where the cancer is and how far it has spread but you could be treated using surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or targeted therapies.

Getting an early diagnosis is very important, as the chance of complete cure will depend on how far the cancer has spread.

If you’re diagnosed with bowel cancer, you’ll be cared for by a multidisciplinary team which will include:

  • a specialist cancer surgeon
  • a radiotherapy and chemotherapy specialist (an oncologist)
  • a radiologist
  • a specialist nurse

This team can be there to offer guidance and support and to help you decide what treatment is best for you.

Get in touch

Bowel cancer can impact your daily life in many different ways. If your bowel cancer has been misdiagnosed or diagnosed late, it can make what is already a worrying time much worse.

At Harding Evans, we have significant experience in representing clients with clinical negligence claims against the NHS or private institutions. If you or one of your relatives has had bowel cancer that was misdiagnosed and would like to speak to one of our legal experts, please get in touch on 01633 244233 or email hello@hevans.com for a no-obligation chat.

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