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Why bowel cancer screening should start at 50

Reduce bowel cancer screening age from 60 to 50

Beating Bowel Cancer is calling for the screening age in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to be lowered from the age of 60 to 50, to bring it in line with Scotland.


New analysis by the charity shows that if the screening age was reduced to age 50 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to be in line with Scotland, thousands of patients a year would be given the opportunity of being diagnosed at an earlier stage.

Being diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage (Stage 1) offers a 97% survival rate. Without screening the majority of patients between 50 and 59 may not be diagnosed until later through their GP or A&E. At that point the cancer is more difficult to treat and if diagnosed at a late stage (Stage 4) their survival odds could be as little as 7%.


Statistics show you are far more likely to be diagnosed at Stage 1 through screening than through referral from the GP or through A&E.


Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer and it’s time we changed the odds for patients in their 50s in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We believe it’s shocking that they are not being given the same opportunity for an early diagnosis as those in Scotland They are being badly let down and they deserve better.


With the increase in the ageing population, there is no excuse for allowing this inequality to carry on, when having more people screened early will not only save lives but also save the NHS money.

97% versus 7%
UK’s second biggest cancer killer but 97% of cases can be successfully treated if caught at an early stage. This drops to just 7% if diagnosed at a late stage.

Campaigner Lauren Backler, 26, from Eastbourne, who lost her mother Fiona to bowel cancer at the age of 55, said: “If we lived in Scotland my mum would have already been screened three times before she was finally diagnosed, increasing her chance of being diagnosed earlier and increasing her chance of survival.


“It breaks my heart to know that I lost my mum to this disease when she could have survived if they had caught it early enough – and that more people in their 50s will also lose their lives unnecessarily each year unless the age is reduced.


“I campaigned for this and the issue was raised in Parliament but its progress has stalled. We must all get behind Beating Bowel Cancer’s campaign to make sure people in their 50s throughout the UK are screened for this awful disease.”

Bowel cancer survivor, Brian Hedley, 61, from Morpeth, said: “If bowel cancer screening had been available to me from the age of 50, the disease would have been caught much sooner. It took over two years for a diagnosis to be made, yet we know that bowel cancer is treatable and curable if identified promptly. Who wouldn’t want to lower their risk of dying from bowel cancer by taking part in a screening programme from the earliest opportunity? Bowel cancer screening saves lives at best; at the very least, it improves the life chances of those diagnosed with it at an early stage.

“If bowel cancer screening had been available to me from the age of 50, the disease would have been caught much sooner”

“I’d urge all the 50-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, their families and friends – and all those who will one day be in that age group – to support this change in screening to ensure that the odds are on their side in the future.”


Find out how you can support the campaign on our petition page.