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Science
CASE NOTES
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Tuesday 21:00-21:30
Repeat Wednesday 16:30
Dr Mark Porter gives listeners the low-down on what the medical profession does and doesn't know. Each week an expert in the studio tackles a particular topic and there are reports from around the UK on the health of the nation - and the NHS.
case.notes@bbc.co.uk
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 20 January
PRESENTER
DR MARK PORTER
Dr Mark Porter
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Tuesday 20 January 2004
Breast Screening

Screening Tests

In the last programme in the current series, Dr Mark Porter examines which screening tests are worth our while, and which we shouldn’t worry about.

Breast Screening
The national breast screening programme invites all women aged 50 – 65 for three yearly mammograms. Eight out of ten of the 42,000 cases of breast cancer that occur in the UK every year are in women over 50.  The Department of Health believes screening of this age group saves around 1,250 lives a year. But what if you are over 65 or under 50 ? How can a woman work out if she is at particular risk from breast cancer, and what can she do about it?

Smear Tests
3.6 million women have a smear very year in England alone. Early detection and treatment can prevent 9 out 10 cervical cancers developing and the Department of Health estimates that the programme picks up 4,000 cases of cancer, and 18,000 cases of pre-cancer every year, and that it saves the lives of at least 1,300 women.

HPV
But could screening for the human papilloma virus (carried by as many as half of all young sexually active women) further improve the accuracy of the cervical cancer screening programme, while reducing unnecessary anxiety and referrals caused by the tens of thousands of “abnormal smears” that turn out to be nothing to worry about?

Bowel Screening
5,000 lives a year could be saved by a national bowel cancer screening programme according to Cancer Research UK. 33,000 people develop bowel cancer in the UK every year. Caught early it is a comparatively easy condition to treat with a 90% cure rate, but only 1 in 10 cases are caught at this stage – partly because early symptoms (such as rectal bleeding) are often missed or ignored.

The idea behind screening would be to increase the proportion of people in whom the disease is detected at this early stage. Initial trials suggest that a test to detect blood in the stool of men and women between the ages of 50 and 70 would be “positive” in around 1 in 50 cases – around 1 in 20 of whom would subsequently be found to have bowel cancer on further testing (examining the bowel using a colonoscope). The programme is likely to save more lives than the breast and cervical cancer screening programmes put together. But when is it going to be introduced?

Dr Mark Porter investigates in Case Notes – BBC Radio 4 : Tuesday 9 pm and Wednesday 4.30 pm.

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