Bowel cancer screening uptake 'must improve'

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Bowel cancer screening uptake needs to improve, campaigners say, after figures showed just over half of those eligible in England come forward for the test.

Beating Bowel Cancer urged more people to come forward, and Public Health England to make it a priority to increase screening rates.

Figures show that uptake among the eligible 60- to 74-year-old age group was 58% in 2012-15.

This compared with 72% for breast and 79% for cervical cancer screening.

The bowel cancer screening programme is much newer - it was only introduced in 2006.

The data - obtained via a parliamentary question - also showed regional variations.

Dorset had the highest uptake at 66% and West London the lowest at 42%.

Beating Bowel Cancer chief executive Mark Flannagan said: "We must do better than this.

"We know that bowel cancer screening saves lives by leading to early diagnosis yet in some areas fewer than half of those eligible are actually taking it up."

'Priority'

The tests, called faecal occult blood tests, are sent in the post to everyone in the target population every two years.

They help detect polyps, which are non-cancerous growths which may develop into cancer over time.

Polyps can bleed and the test identifies tiny amounts of blood that normally cannot be seen.

In the first four years of the programme, more than 7,000 cancers were detected and 40,000 patients had polyps removed.

Prof Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, said improving uptake remained a "priority".

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