Lord Mayor of Norwich and local MPs join national charity to celebrate screening programme in Norwich

National bowel cancer charity Bowel Cancer UK joined forces with the Lord Mayor of Norwich, as well as Norfolk and Norwich Members of Parliament and screening programme representatives on Friday 3rd November 2006, to celebrate the successful progress of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in Norwich.

Councillor Felicity Hartley; Dr Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North; Keith Simpson, MP for Mid Norfolk; Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk; and Tony Wright, MP for Great Yarmouth and Dr John Battersby, Director of Public Health for Norfolk Primary Care Trust joined charity Bowel Cancer UK and screening representatives for a photocall at the local bowel cancer screening centre at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Department of Gastroenterology.

The photocall was followed by a presentation by Dr Richard Tighe, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Clinical Lead at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, who  provided further information on bowel cancer and the screening programme  

The Norwich Screening Centre is the second of six local screening centres to be rolled out in the first wave of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England: the first of its kind for a cancer that affects men and women equally in the UK. In July 2006, Bowel Cancer UK, MPs and the Mayor celebrated the launch of the Programme at the first of the local screening centres to open, in Wolverhampton.  

From July 2006, people from Norfolk, aged between 60 and 69, have been invited to participate in screening. This involves taking a simple test – known as a Faecal Occult Blood test (FOBt) – which can be done safely in the privacy of your own home. People aged 70 and above can also ask for a kit (see below for details).  

If the FOBt test comes back with a positive result – which doesn’t necessarily mean the person has bowel cancer – they will then see a screening nurse at the centre for a colonoscopy. In September and October 56 patients underwent a colonoscopy, cancer was detected in 11 patients: 24 had polyps removed and for 21 patients the results were normal.  

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. According to the latest figures from 2003, over 1400 people died of the disease in East Anglia, including Norwich. Screening for the disease, by using FOBt has shown to reduce mortality rates by 16%, and could potentially save at least 225 lives a year in East Anglia 

Ian Beaumont, Director of Press, PR and Public Affairs at Bowel Cancer UK says: “Despite the statistics, bowel cancer is highly treatable if caught early, with an estimated 90% survival rate. However, a quarter of bowel cancer cases are not diagnosed until after the cancer has spread, most often to the liver. Early detection through screening is, therefore, a vital step towards saving lives, which is why Bowel Cancer UK actively supports the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.”  

Dr Richard Tighe comments: “We have already had an overwhelmingly positive response to the Screening Programme in Norwich and we are incredibly encouraged by the public’s reaction, particularly with the large number of over 70s requesting a kit.  

 “Based on September and October’s figures, we are picking up one cancer per week, and have uncovered and removed pre-malignant polyps in another two people each week. For every one cancer detected, we are ruling out another two people who have had normal tests. We strongly recommend that anyone eligible to take part does so, and that anyone over 70 with any concerns requests a kit by contacting the freephone number: 0800-707-6060.”  

70 year old Ray Middleton of Poringland, near Norwich who took part in the Programme, concludes:   “My wife died of bowel cancer so I know how painful and drawn out the suffering can be. This new programme is amazing, the test kit came through the post, and I sent it off and was asked to come in for a further test. I went to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital screening team and they were brilliant. I had a cancerous polyp, which was removed, and I'm okay now. The Programme saved my life. I want to tell everyone who gets sent the test not to hesitate – just do it.”    

For more information about Bowel Cancer visit www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk or call the Bowel Cancer Advisory Service on 08708 50 60 50                                   

Notes to Editors

Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBt)   Screening for bowel cancer by using Faecal Occult Blood tests (FOBt) has shown to reduce mortality rates by 16%. It is estimated that the Programme will save up to 1,200 lives each year once it is fully rolled out – which is expected to be by 2009.    

The screening programme involves the FOBt kits being sent in the post to eligible people. Each kit will be accompanied by an information leaflet, with step-by-step instructions; advice on the benefits of screening in the early diagnosis of bowel cancer; and links to organisations that can provide further information, help and support, including Bowel Cancer UK.  

The FOBt is designed to identify hidden blood in stools, which can indicate the presence of bowel cancer. It involves smearing stool samples onto a special card and sending the card off to a laboratory for testing. Three separate bowel motions will be tested with each kit.  

Persistent rectal bleeding is one of the main symptoms of bowel cancer. However, it is important to note that if a FOBt comes back abnormal, it is not necessarily an indication of bowel cancer. Blood in stools can be caused by many non-life threatening conditions such as haemorrhoids or stomach ulcers. The test kits should be returned to a laboratory for analysis within 14 days of the first sample being taken and a freepost envelope designed to meet postal regulations will be provided. The results will be sent out in the form of a letter within 14 days of the test kits being received by the laboratory.          

Thursday 9th of November 2006 10:00:12 AM