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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month - Trust highlights importance of screening

09/04/2018
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April 2018 is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is highlighting the importance of screening.

The Bowel Scope Screening test is a quick and easy method of screening currently being rolled out across Oxfordshire. All men and women aged 55 who are registered with a GP practice that has gone 'live' with Bowel Scope Screening will be invited automatically.

Those aged between 56 and 59 and registered with a GP practice that has gone 'live' can self-refer onto the programme.

The test takes 20 minutes and can be done during weekdays, evenings or weekends. It aims to prevent bowel cancer from developing by finding and removing any small bowel growths, called polyps, which could eventually turn into cancer.

The Bowel Scope Screening test, which launched in 2015, is an additional screening test to the established Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), which looks for traces of blood in the faeces. Bowel Scope Screening enables a younger population to be screened, and Oxford University Hospitals is encouraging more people to participate.

"Bowel Cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death, and more than 41,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. That's equivalent to someone being diagnosed every 15 minutes," says Terry Tran-Nguyen, Oxfordshire Bowel Cancer Screening Programme Manager.

"Bowel Scope is an effective test at detecting and preventing bowel cancer, however, not everyone who is eligible for the test is taking the opportunity. Of all the people invited for a Bowel Scope Screening test, fewer than half accept the invitation and attend their appointment.

"This can be down to a couple of factors - the early stages of bowel cancer are usually asymptomatic, so people won't necessarily notice anything out of the ordinary and might not feel the need to attend. In the past year, we diagnosed five people with bowel cancer following their screening, and none of them had experienced any symptoms.

"Symptoms usually appear in the later stages of bowel cancer, which means the tumour could be larger in size or cancer could have spread to other parts of the body, posing a greater challenge to treat. Prognosis is much better if we detect bowel cancer in its early stages.

"We also understand that many people aged 55 are working and may not prioritise taking time off work for an appointment if they don't have symptoms. The Oxfordshire screening centres seek to keep the programme as accessible as possible by offering appointments on weekdays, evenings and weekends to accommodate those finding it challenging to take time off work or have other commitments during usual business hours."

Russell Leek turned 55 years old last year, and was invited for a Bowel Scope Screening. As a former Cancer Research Scientist of 26 years, he knew the importance of early detection and attended his screening appointment.

"At the time of my test, I didn't have any symptoms. I thought, at worst, that the test might find a few polyps that could be easily removed.

"As it turned out, the clinicians found a tumour - a 1 in 300 occurrence by all accounts. The news knocked me for six, and then the realisation dawned how lucky it was that it was caught that early. I went on to have several CT scans, and an operation was organised within six weeks. I had keyhole surgery to remove the tumour entirely, and then underwent chemotherapy.

"I've nearly finished my treatment, and the oncologists think I'll live to a ripe old age. It makes me think of what would have happened if I'd ignored that letter - the tumour would have undoubtedly progressed and even begun to spread throughout my body. If I'd waited for symptoms to show, my prognosis could have been an awful lot worse - the screening saved my life. For that, I urge people to go to the screening. It could save their life, too - all for the sake of a quick appointment."

Screening and endoscopy at the Trust

In 2017 the Trust expanded the Endoscopy department at the John Radcliffe Hospital after a £1 million investment. It included the addition of an extra procedure room, bringing the total up to six, and two more private discussion rooms.

In November 2017, the upgraded Endoscopy department at the Horton General Hospital was accredited by the prestigious Joint Advisory Group (JAG) on Gasotrointestinal Endoscopy. JAG accreditation is a patient-centred scheme which is based on the principle of independent assessment against recognised national standards. It was developed for all endoscopy services across the UK in both the NHS and independent sectors.

This well-deserved national recognition is great news for patients and staff in the department, in which the Trust invested nearly £2.7 million.

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