'Testing younger people will save lives', says bowel cancer survivor as Wales screening age lowered

  • ITV Wales Health Reporter Katie Fenton reports on the changes to the bowel cancer screening age

A bowel cancer survivor has said that "testing younger people will save lives" after the Welsh Government announced that people aged 51-54 will now be eligible for bowel cancer screening in Wales.

It's part of a phased plan which will see the screening age lowered to 50 in 2024.

The change means 51 to 54-year-olds in Wales will now automatically receive at-home tests - a move that it is hoped will save lives.

Photographer, Sacha Stoyle, 53, was diagnosed with bowel cancer three years ago after noticing blood in her poo.

  • Sacha speaking about her reaction to her diagnosis

She said: "They told me that they'd found a tumour and they were going to remove it and everything would be okay.

"They could see it and they took samples and they would do a biopsy, so I wouldn't know straight away at that point that it was cancer but I was aware that I had a tumour and it was going to be operated on within the next month."

Sacha's cancer was detected early which meant she was able to avoid chemotherapy.

"If they hadn't caught it early I don't want to think about it. Because I do speak to a lot of people now who haven't gone and haven't caught it early and I'm talking to people who have lost people," she said.

  • Health Reporter Katie Fenton shows how a home-test works

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in Wales, but it's also one of the most curable.

Almost nine out of ten people survive when it's detected and treated early on.

The Welsh government have taken another step forward in lowering the screening age to 50 by next year.

But aged 50 herself when she got the diagnosis, Sacha wouldn't have been eligible for a home test kit.

"There's a lot of younger people who are suffering and dying from bowel cancer and I think they need to keep lowering the age to as low as possible because it's not just an old person's disease, it can affect anyone at any time," Sacha said.

In July, when the NHS marked its 75th birthday, Eluned Morgan told ITV News we may need to pay more to use its services.

Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said: “I am very pleased to see more people in Wales having access to these precautionary, and sometimes lifesaving, bowel screenings.

“Over the next two years, we are also increasing the sensitivity of the test to make it even more effective at detecting cancer.

“Although it is reassuring to see good uptake rates of the screening test so far, around a third of people still don’t take up the offer. So, I would encourage everyone who is sent a kit to take the test as it could be life-saving.”

The number of people who searched for bowel cancer screening surged in Wales following the death of BBC presenter George Alagiah earlier this year.

In April, it was announced the 'Bowelbabe' cancer research fund set up by Dame Deborah James raised £11.3 million.

Dame Deborah was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and became an outspoken campaigner, encouraging people to check for signs of the deadly disease before she passed away aged 40.

Speaking about the Welsh Government's announcement Genevieve Edwards, chief executive at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “This is fantastic news and a massive step in the right direction towards screening from 50 in Wales, which we’ve long campaigned for.

"Screening is one of the best ways to diagnose bowel cancer early, when it’s much easier to treat, or in some cases prevent it from developing in the first place, and so inviting more people to take part is welcomed.”

Dame Deborah's Bowelbabe cancer research fund raised £11.3 million. Credit: Instagram

Steve Court, head of bowel screening Wales at Public Health Wales, said: “Bowel screening can help find bowel cancer at an early stage, when you don’t have any symptoms.

"Early detection is so important because at least 9 out of 10 people will survive bowel cancer if it’s found and treated early."

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