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Public Health Wales marks ten years of abdominal aortic aneurysm screening in Wales

Published: 1 June 2023

Public Health Wales is urging men aged 65 to consider taking up the offer of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening, as it marks the tenth anniversary of its AAA screening programme. A recent survey conducted by Public Health Wales found that there was low awareness of the programme, with 77 per cent of the men responding not being aware of this potentially life-saving programme.

AAA screening looks for a bulge or swelling (aneurysm) in the aorta, the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the body. If an aneurysm is detected early, it can be monitored through regular scans or operated on to prevent it bursting. AAA screening is offered to all men aged 65 who are registered with a GP.

Jeremy Surcombe, Head of Programme at AAA Screening Wales, said:

“AAA screening saves lives by finding aneurysms early, when they’re easier to treat. Over the last ten years, the programme has screened over 148,000 men and detected 1,700 aneurysms.

“Eight out of 10 men take up the offer of AAA screening, and most men who are screened are told that an aneurysm hasn’t been found. Large aneurysms are rare, but they can be very serious. In most cases, a large AAA will not cause symptoms, but if it bursts, it can cause life-threatening bleeding.

“The good news is that if we find an AAA early, we can offer regular ultrasound scans to monitor it or surgery to prevent it from bursting. Taking part in screening is your choice, but we’d encourage all men to take the time to find out more about AAA screening and its benefits.”

Case study: John Doherty

John Doherty, 66, from Newport, went for AAA screening one Friday in May 2022.

“I wasn’t keen on going to the appointment,” he says. “I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. I’d never heard of AAA screening before and I didn’t take it seriously because I had no symptoms and felt fine.”

But thanks to encouragement from his wife and a conveniently timed appointment, which coincided with her shopping trip, John did attend screening, and a large aneurysm was detected.

“I was told, ‘if this bursts, you’ve got real problems.’ I was certainly not allowed to drive! We called my wife in the store to take me home. I had an operation just five days later."

A keen motorcyclist, John had been looking forward to his retirement and finally having the time to fix up and ride his classic machines.

“I was lucky. Like a lot of men my age, I find it hard to make time for all the appointments I get. My experience brings home how important it is to have that little check.”

 “The AAA screening definitely saved my life,” adds John.