Over 50s bowel cancer tests review by Welsh government

Prof Dean Harris
Image caption Prof Dean Harris says bowel cancer is the most prevalent form of the disease in Wales

Bowel cancer tests are currently available to people over 60 but plans to extend to those in their 50s is under review by the Welsh government.

The disease is Wales' most common form of cancer and currently men and women aged 60 to 74 are eligible for free screening.

The age limit was due to be lowered this year but it has been postponed.

The Welsh government said not enough of those currently eligible for screening were taking part.

It said it was now aiming to increase uptake of the tests.

However the decision has sparked criticism.

Nick Phillips, whose wife Marcia died of bowel cancer at the age of 46, said he wanted to be tested himself but had been refused as he is only 56.

Image caption Nick Phillips says his wife Marcia was diagnosed too late with bowel cancer

"Unfortunately she was diagnosed too late and she died within three months of being diagnosed," said Mr Phillips, who runs a cancer charity from his home in Pontypridd.

"It's affected me greatly after the loss of Marcia... 46. And this is why it's very important to screen early for bowel cancer."

Around 2,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer - or colorectal cancer as it is also known - in Wales each year.

If it can be detected before there are any symptoms the chances of survival are far greater, according to Prof Dean Harris, one of Wales' leading experts.

He deals with 10 to 12 suspected new cases every day at his clinic at Singleton Hospital in Swansea.

"We're still seeing a high number with colorectal cancer presenting as an emergency with obstruction of the bowel or even perforation," he added.

The Welsh government said the priority was to "improve screening uptake, and to reduce inequities amongst the current screening cohort, and to increase colonoscopy capacity across Wales".

"The Welsh government is working with Public Health Wales to improve uptake rates," it added in a statement.

See more on this story on BBC Wales Today at 13:30 GMT and 18:30 GMT.

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Media captionSwansea university researchers are trying to improve bowel cancer tests, as Cerys Jenkins explains

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