A NEW NHS initiative will help people in Sutton and Merton to defeat one of the biggest cancer killers in the UK. Bowel cancer affects one in 20 people, and kills more than 16,000 people in the UK every year. Men and women aged between 60 and 69* are being invited to take part in a new life-saving screening programme.

Operating as part of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, the new South West London Bowel Screening Centre at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, will increase detection of early stage cancers when treatment is more likely to be effective. Over a two-year period from 8 February 2007, invitations to participate in the screening programme will be sent to people between the ages of 60 to 69, and registered with a GP in Sutton and Merton. People aged 70 and over can opt into the programme by calling a freephone helpline: 0800 707 6060.

Those invited to participate in the programme also will receive a leaflet with more information, and a simple-to-use testing kit. The tests involve collecting a small sample from three separate bowel motions and returning the kit to a laboratory in a specially designed pre-paid envelope.

The samples will be analysed for tiny traces of blood that may be invisible to the naked eye. It is estimated that 98 per cent of people screened will have nothing abnormal detected, and the remaining two per cent will be invited for an appointment with a specialist nurse at St George’s. Only 11 per cent of people requiring further investigation will have cancer; around 40 per cent them will have polyps (clumps of abnormal cells which may in time develop into cancer), which can be removed easily.

Roger Leicester, Trust Director of Endoscopy at St George’s, said:

“We are very pleased that St George’s can now offer this service and we hope as many people as possible in Sutton and Merton will take up this opportunity. Previous studies have shown screening can reduce the rate of bowel deaths by 16 per cent among those screened.”

Maggie Harding, Director of Public Health, Sutton and Merton PCT, urged local residents to participate in the programme:

“Early detection of bowel cancer is key to successful treatment, and this programme will save lives. Taking part in the programme is not difficult or time consuming, and we hope as many people as possible make the most of this opportunity.”

People receiving the invitations for screening and needing further information can call: 0800 707 6060.

Bowel cancer kills 16,000 people a year and is the second highest cause of cancer deaths in the UK.

Notes to editors

  1. For more information please contact Esther Ferguson, Communications Manager at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, on 020 8725 4521 or email: esther.ferguson@stgeorges.nhs.uk