BOWEL cancer screening tests are being used by record numbers of people but poorer people could be more at risk as figures revealed a significant gap in uptake between the wealthiest and most deprived areas.
More than a million Scots aged between 50 to 74 years old took part in screening between November 2012 and October 2014, raising the participation levels to 57.6 per cent.
The results fell short of the 60 per cent standard set by Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
Colorectal cancer is the second most deadly cancer in the UK, claiming the lives of 1,631 Scots in 2012.
Screening tests are the most effective way to find bowel cancer early, when there is a greater chance of successful treatment.
Figures released by health service data collection organisation ISD Scotland revealed a postcode lottery where uptake amongst the most deprived group was 45.4 per cent – more than 20 per cent worse than in the most affluent areas.
Uptake among women has risen from 58 per cent to 60 per cent, but participation rates still lag behind breast and cervical cancer screening rates at 74 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.
Health secretary Shona Robison said: “Any rise in screening rates must be welcomed, and for the number of bowel screening participants to exceed one million for the first time is fantastic news.
“However, there are people out there who still put it off and I want to take this opportunity to urge them to take part.”
She added: “We must now continue to work hard to tackle health inequalities and ensure that everyone in Scotland has the best chance of beating cancer.”
The new figures indicate that the Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early Programme is having a positive impact but more needs to be done, said Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer.
He added: “Far too many people still don’t complete the test and are being diagnosed too late when it’s more advanced and difficult to treat.
“Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer. Yet more than 90 per cent of cases can be treated successfully when caught in the early stages. So if screening uptake was to increase to be equal to breast and cervical cancer, potentially thousands of lives could be saved.”
Dorothy Byres, of Murrayfield, in Edinburgh, was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer when she was 52, following a routine bowel screening in 2010.
After finding out her brother-in-law had the disease, she sent off her test and was told she needed to go for a colonoscopy.
Doctors confirmed it was cancer and Ms Byres had to undergo months of chemotherapy before being given the all clear.
The 56-year-old said: “I owe my life to the screening. I had no symptoms at all, so if it wasn’t for the test I might not have known there was anything wrong, and it would be a very different story.
“I feel very lucky to have been offered that opportunity. Everyone should take up the screening, even if they have done it previously.”