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Bowel cancer screening scheme catching cancer earlier

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is identifying early stage cancers and is on course to show a fall in colorectal cancer mortality in line with research and pilot programmes.

Patients screened in the first English centre of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme have earlier stage cancers than those diagnosed before the screening programme was brought in, new research has found.

The study, from Wolverhampton, where bowel cancer screening was introduced in 2006, found that 45% of the colorectal cancer identified in the screened population was Duke stage A, the earliest stage of disease, and 22% stage B, compared with 10% stage A and 50% stage B in those diagnosed in the two years before screening was introduced.

The proportion of earlier bowel cancer identified is similar to that seen in research and pilot studies, which have gone on to show a reduction in overall colorectal cancer mortality.

Lead researchers Dr Andrew Veitch, consultant gastroenterologist at the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘This study demonstrates the first evidence for the effectiveness of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England in the setting of a fully inclusive service in a district general hospital.'

Colorectal Disease 2009, online 30 October

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