Cancer seems to be a growing disease burden among populations across modern society and the importance of screening for the disease in early stages is still understated. One such underrated condition is bowel cancer, which, though considered as the second most fatal cancer in the United Kingdom, yet, only about half of the eligible women take part in screening programs. This is a major cause of concern, as bowel cancers cause 10% of all cancer deaths worldwide.
When compared against screening programs for cervical and breast cancer, with rates of 71% and 74% respectively, the rates for bowel cancer are a disappointing 58%, according to a survey conducted in Scotland.
To find out the reasons behind these numbers, researchers at The University of Glasgow, headed by Dr Katie Robb in the Institute of Health & Wellbeing, and Professor Colin McCowan of the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics, have secured a grant of £84,000 from the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative.
Bowel cancer screening was introduced much later in Scotland, in 2007, as compared to breast and cervical cancer screening, introduced back in 1988. However screening rates had shot up to 70% and more for breast and cervical cancer, within a few years, much unlike the fate of bowel cancer screening.
Although public support is as high as 90% for screening programs, both in the UK and US, the actual participation rates are surprisingly low. The bowel cancer screening kit is composed of a home-testing kit, called a faecal occult blood test, and is relatively easy to perform. The test involves wiping small samples of stool on a piece of card which is then kept in a hygienically sealed envelope and sent to a lab for testing. The sample is checked for traces of blood that might indicate a cancerous state of the bowel.
Researchers are planning to analyze the socio-economic conditions, demographic features, or factors relating to medical differences, and use data on screening invitations and uptake from the NHS Health Scotland’s Screening Programmes for women in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board region to study and identify the differences between bowel versus breast and cervical screening services.
Dr. Jodie Moffat, head of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said: “There are plans to introduce a new, easier-to-use bowel screening test across Scotland within the next few years – and that, together with what we learn from this study, could help encourage more people to take part. It’s important that people have the information they need when deciding whether to take part in bowel screening, and nothing discourages them if they want to go ahead. Screening can detect bowel cancer early, and when it’s diagnosed at the earliest stage more than nine in 10 patients survive the disease for at least five years.”