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Bowel Screening expands to include 51-54 year olds

10th October 2023

The Bowel Screening Information Management System developed and supported by Digital Health and Care Wales is supporting the expansion of the Bowel screening programme in Wales to younger ages. The system is a secure web application that supports the screening process, by selecting people from the Welsh population for screening.

As of 4th October 2023, Bowel Screening Wales started inviting people aged 51, 52, 53 and 54 for bowel cancer screening for the first time. It follows the lowering of the age from 60 to 58 in October 2021 and from 58 to 55 in October 2022.  The programme will be rolled out to the newly eligible age group gradually over the next 12 months.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer in Wales. Over 2,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in Wales, and it results in over 900 deaths. Evidence shows that screening people at a younger age enables more bowel cancers to be picked up at an earlier stage, when treatment is likely to be more effective and survival chances improved.

The screening test used is the highly effective Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), which is simple for people to use at home, requiring just one sample of poo.  The test looks for tiny traces of blood (haemoglobin) in the sample, which are too small to be seen but can be an indicator of bowel cancer and benign polyps. In addition to the age expansion to 51 year olds, Bowel Screening Wales will also lower the positive threshold level of the screening FIT from 150µg of haemoglobin/g for faeces to 120µg. This change will increase the sensitivity of the screening test and result in more cancers, polyps and adenomas being detected by screening.

Steve Court, Head of Bowel Screening Wales at Public Health Wales, said:

“I’m delighted that we’re expanding the bowel cancer screening programme to include those aged 51 to 54 in Wales.

“Bowel screening can help find bowel cancer at an early stage, when you don’t have any symptoms. Early detection is so important because at least 9 out of 10 people will survive bowel cancer if it’s found and treated early. Bowel screening also detects and removes pre-cancerous polyps that if left in the bowel could develop into cancer.

“The invitation and test kit will be arriving via post to those who are eligible over the next 12 months. The home test kit is easy to complete and to send to our laboratory for analysis.

“I would urge everyone who receives an invitation to take up their offer. It could save their life.”