Media & Press

Gastroenterologists call for more investment in cancer screening and services

The British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) is today calling for further investment in the Bowel Cancer Screening programme to ensure more colorectal cancers are detected early and treated. This follows figures released this week in the Cancer Reform Strategy report, clearly showing that more needs to be done to win the battle against bowel cancer. Figures show that in England, 4.5 million testing kits have been sent out with 2.5million returned since the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme was rolled out in 2006. In this time 17000 polyps have been removed and 4000 unsuspected cancers have been detected.

But Dr Edwin Swarbrick, Vice President of BSG and Chairman of the BSG Endoscopy Committee states:

"In so many ways, the UK Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is ahead of the rest of the world. But whilst tremendous efforts have been made, this is only the beginning. We need more sensitive immunochemical first screening Faecal Occult Blood Tests to be introduced out as soon as possible to increase the yield of "early" curable cases.. We would welcome the roll out of the programme to the 50-60 age groups for all but are conscious that these steps will increase yield and therefore workload for the screening teams. We need the Government to continue to invest heavily in endoscopic technology, services and training for the programme to deliver the objectives.

"The BSG is also concerned at the potential impact of increased GP referrals of symptomatic cases as recommended in this weeks report." Dr Swarbrick added:

"As GPs begin to refer more potential bowel cancer cases for diagnostic tests such as colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy there will be a greater drain on PCT resources.during this time of budgetary pressure so that the need for continued investment in endoscopic training and quality assurance will be difficult to meet. The BSG already works closely with the Department of Health on these issues and looks forward to a continued and constructive dialogue."

19 of the 27 EU member states already operate national programmes for bowel cancer screening, including the UK. BSG members across the country have worked with NHS Bowel Screening Programme to implement new standards and recommendations by establishing centralised quality assurance programmes and research networks as well as training programmes for the entire multi-disciplinary team to meet quality assurance standards and accreditation regimes for endoscopy.

Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK commented:

"The European Commission has identified bowel cancer as a major health problem and as early as 2003 the Commission called on every European country to devote more attention to prevention and screening for the disease. The NHS has been working incredibly hard to prioritise these and other strategies and while there have been successes; Professor Richards' report outlines the need for more to be done especially amongst hard to reach groups. We are confident that the measures outlined by BSG, when combined with the robust systems already in place, will help to identify more cases of bowel cancer earlier, when it is much more treatable, and reduce the number of deaths from the disease."

These calls follow a recent workshop and presentations at Gastro 2009, the world's largest gastroenterology conference, bringing together leading world experts on the development of "European Guidelines on Colorectal Screening'. The sessions included live feeds from a gastroenterology unit at St Mark's Hospital, London.

About one in 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime. It is the third most common cancer in the UK, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths, with over 16,000 people dying from it each year.[1]Regular bowel cancer screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16 per cent 2.


Notes to Editors

1 CancerResearch UK, 2005. Cancerstats
2 Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2006. Screening for colorectal cancer using the faecal occult blood test: an update.

The British Society of Gastroenterology is an organisation focused on the promotion of gastroenterology within the United Kingdom. It has over three thousand members drawn from the ranks of physicians, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, scientists, nurses, dietitians, and others interested in the field. Founded in 1937 it has grown from a club to be a major force in British medicine.

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