Ex-health minister wants bowel cancer test age reduced

Failure to meet key A&E waiting targets was also criticised. Picture: TSPL
Failure to meet key A&E waiting targets was also criticised. Picture: TSPL
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Former health secretary Andrew Lansley has revealed he is being treated for bowel cancer and is blaming Tory budget cuts for it not being found earlier through screening.

The Conservative peer said cuts “wrongly” imposed by the Treasury had frustrated the delivery of a screening programme he introduced in 2010, which could have led to earlier diagnosis.

Lord Lansley, 61, is calling for action to ensure future sufferers do not have to rely on chance for an early diagnosis, which is crucial to survival.

He was diagnosed with stage three tumours nine months ago when spreading back pain and “nagging” from his wife persuaded him to see his GP.

“I want to know that for others like me in future, with better knowledge about symptoms, with earlier improved screening in place, and with a new focus on personalised preventative medicine, it really isn’t about luck,” he said.

He called on future plans to include cutting the age for screening to 50 “in line with international best practice”.

Last week BBC newsreader George Alagiah, 62, who is receiving treatment for bowel cancer for the second time, said the disease may have been caught sooner with earlier screening if NHS England had similar screening procedures as Scotland.

In Scotland people aged 50 to 74 are automatically sent a bowel screening test kit to complete at home every two years, and post back to health authorities. In England testing begins at age 60.

Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest killer after lung cancer, with approximately 16,000 deaths annually.

Claire Donaghy, head of Scotland for Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer, said Scotland was at the forefront in bowel cancer screening.

“As Lord Lansley rightly highlights we need to urgently invest in both the endoscopy and pathology workforce to ensure we can deliver an optimal bowel cancer screening programme.

“Scotland is leading the way in bowel cancer screening, not only does the country invite people from 50 years old to take part in the bowel cancer screening test, compared to 60 years old in the rest of the UK but Scotland have launched the new Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) in November 2017, the test which England and Wales is currently still waiting to roll out.

“Pilot studies in England have shown FIT could pick up twice as many cancers and increase screening uptake by around 10 per cent overall, including people who previously haven’t take part.”