Calls for bowel cancer screening access for over-74s in Wales

This article was taken from:

By BBC Healthcare news

A bowel cancer charity is calling for more older people in Wales to be able to access free screening kits.

Currently, only people aged 60 to 74 in Wales are invited to be screened every two years for the disease.

Bowel Cancer UK said those aged over 74 should be allowed to voluntarily opt back in to the screening programme as happens in England and Scotland.

A Welsh Government spokesman said the programme followed guidelines provided by experts.

“It’s just sad that whoever decides this thinks that you are too old after 74 for any sort of medical tests,” said Myra Smith.

The 77-year-old said her request for a bowel cancer screening kit was refused.

Mrs Smith and husband Michael, 76, from Marford, near Wrexham, used to receive the tests, but they are no longer eligible due to their ages.

Mrs Smith said she contacted Public Health Wales’s Bowel Screening Wales programme to ask if she could pay for a test, but was told “categorically no”.

She said she also tried her GP surgery and a chemist without success.

“I think if we could just get them, it eases our minds,” she said.

Mrs Smith, who was last tested in 2014, said: “If it saves someone’s life it would be worthwhile.”

Bowel cancer screening involves a free home-testing kit which is sent off for analysis

Mr Smith, who was last screened two years ago, said: “I was quite surprised that there was a cut-off point because you feel that at mid-70s is a dangerous age for when these things can crop up.

“It seems crazy that there should be a cut-off point in this day and age, as young as 74.

“If the age of dying was 75 you could argue it’s not important, but people are living to 85, 95 – my poor old mum’s just gone at 97.

“Now, I know they won’t extend it to that sort of age but I would’ve thought adding the age by five years would’ve been worthwhile.”

Lowri Griffiths, head of Bowel Cancer UK in Wales, said in Wales and Northern Ireland people from the age of 60 to 74 were able to participate in the bowel screening programme.

“We are pleased that the Welsh Government has recently committed to lower the screening age to 50, as this will no doubt help to diagnose more cancers in this younger age group,” she said.

“We are mindful, however, that those aged 75 and over here in Wales are not allowed to opt back into the screening programme, unlike people living in England and Scotland.

“The risk of bowel cancer increases with age and, therefore, we at Bowel Cancer UK strongly believe that there should be parity across all four nations of the UK to ensure everyone has the same opportunity to have bowel cancer either prevented or detected early.

“We would therefore ask the Welsh Government to review their position and to take action to address this inequality of access.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Wales, like the rest of the UK, follows the expert advice of the UK National Screening Committee which advises that bowel screening should be provided up to the age of 74.

“Population screening is not without risks so there needs to be a balance between the benefits and harms of the screening test being offered.

“Screening in older age groups which don’t have symptoms can mean the additional risks from false positive results and any follow-up invasive investigations can outweigh the potential benefits.”

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