The Forum has welcomed the government's plan to screen older people for bowel cancer. The first cancer national screening programme in England for both men and women will be rolled out across the country from April 2006.
Speaking at the Britain Against Cancer conference, last week, health minister John Reid said: 'Preventing cancer and improving services for those who develop the disease continues to be a priority for this Government, and we have already made significant progress in reducing deaths from cancer. We can do even better. The national roll out of a bowel cancer screening programme will help us to save even more lives. Screening is key to cutting deaths from cancer. That is why I am delighted to announce today that we are investing £37.5 million over two years to fund a NHS Bowel Cancer Screening to begin in April 2006.'
Peter Baker, Director of the Men's Health Forum, said: 'This is very good news for men. Bowel cancer is the third most common form of cancer in men. More than 15,000 men a year are diagnosed with it in England. Also, men are almost twice as likely to die from bowel cancer as women and at a younger age. So today's news is welcome.
'However, it is crucially important that strategies are developed to ensure that men do take part in this screening. There has been evidence from pilot studies that men are significantly less likely than women to take part in screening programmes, as they are to use most other health services. So persuading men of the value of screening will be essential to the success of this programme'.
The government promised to introduce bowel cancer screening in the NHS plan in 2000. Two methods of screening have been piloted - faecal occult blood testing (FOBt) and flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG). FOBt involves analysing stool samples and this method will be introduced in phases amongst men and women in their sixties from April 2006. Large scale pilots of the second method, FSIG, will be carried out in people in their late fifties. There is clear evidence that FOBt can cut the death rate for bowel cancer by 15%.
FSIG requires an endospcopy. Last year seven regional and three national endoscopy training centres were established to train more people to carry out these out ready the NHS for a screening programme. By the end of 2004/05 there will be 345 newly trained endoscopists and 88 new trainers, the government promise.
Forum patron Lynn Faulds Wood from Lynn's Bowel Cancer Campaign said: 'I've been campaigning for national screening for years and am delighted it is happening. I know what a dreadful disease bowel cancer can be and I'm lucky to have survived it.'
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