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Colorectal Cancer: Screening

Volume 494: debated on Friday 19 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the NHS bowel cancer screening programme; and if he will assess the merits of extending it to people between the ages of 50 and 59 years old. (281315)

We are currently rolling out the NHS bowel screening programme across England. Roll-out commenced in April 2006 and full roll-out across the country is on course to be completed by the end of 2009. When fully implemented, around two million men and women will be screened, and around 3,000 cases of bowel cancer detected every year.

As at 4 May 2009, 3,411,763 testing kits had been sent out with 1,955,831 kits having been returned; there had been 34,455 positive results with 3,063 cancers having been detected; and 11,474 patients had polyps removed, which might have progressed to bowel cancer.

From 2010, the NHS bowel cancer screening programme will be extended to men and women aged 70 to 75. By the end of 2010, we will assess whether or not to extend the programme to people in their 50s.

Based on the promising results of a large Cancer UK-funded clinical trial on the use of flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) in bowel screening, we are funding a £300,000 demonstration study of screening by FS being run by St. Mark's Hospital, London. The pilot is inviting men and women aged 58 to be screened, and it is expected to report later in 2009. The results from the FS pilot will be considered when we assess whether or not to extend the bowel screening programme to people in their 50s.