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Nearly half of people in Wales ignoring life-saving bowel cancer screening test

Welsh rugby legend urges people to take the bowel screening test.

Just over one in two eligible people in Wales took part in the free NHS Bowel Cancer screening in Wales during 2018-19, recent data has revealed.

Currently in Wales, people aged 60 to 74 years old are eligible for the free NHS bowel screening test every two years.

Taking part in screening can reduce your risk of dying from bowel cancer, with patients nine times more likely to survive bowel cancer if it is found early. 

The latest data shows improvements with uptake increasing across Wales, especially in the most disadvantaged groups, but Bowel Screening still has the lowest uptake of all screening programmes in Wales.

Merthyr Tydfil and Wrexham reported the lowest uptake rates of the kit in Wales, with Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan reporting the highest. 

Uptake from men is particularly low, with just 54% of the total population taking part in screening.
Public Health Wales and Bowel Cancer UK have come together to devise a campaign to increase uptake of the bowel screening test. 

Featuring Welsh rugby legend Jamie Roberts, a campaign will be running throughout the six nations urging people, particularly men, to complete the test. 

The screening test, which has step-by-step instructions, is completed at home and returned by post, looks for hidden blood in a poo which can be an early sign of bowel cancer. 

Jamie Roberts, campaign ambassador, said: “I’m proud to be part of this campaign as many more people need to be aware of the importance of taking the screening test. 

“It’s a simple job that can be done within the privacy of your own home, and it doesn’t cost you a thing. Don’t be scared, do the test.”

Dr Ardiana Gjini, Consultant Lead for Cancer Screening for Public Health Wales said: “We are pleased with the improvements we have seen during last year with the increase in the number of people using the new bowel cancer screening kit, and particularly pleased as more people from disadvantaged areas have done so. This means that people living in our least well off communities are increasing their chances of preventing bowel cancer or having cancer detected at early stages, when the chances of survival are higher. 

“Despite this, there are clearly many more people that could benefit from this very high quality, potentially life-saving public health programme.”

Lowri Griffiths, Head of Wales at Bowel Cancer UK, says: “We know that taking part in bowel cancer screening is the best way to e diagnose the disease early, when treatment has the best chance of working. Whilst we’re pleased that more people have completed the test over the last year, almost half of all people invited haven’t. We hope the TV advertising campaign with Jamie Roberts and Bowel Screening Wales will encourage more people to take this life-saving test when they receive it in the post for free.”

For more information about screening, see the Bowel Screening Wales links below: