On the agenda - Call for change to bowel cancer tests

In a nutshell Cancer charities and researchers are calling on the Government to introduce a bowel cancer screening programme, after research led by Imperial College London found that a single flexible sigmoidoscopy examination in men and women aged 55 to 64 reduced the incidence of bowel cancer developing by a third.

Bowel cancer tests: changes to screening
Bowel cancer tests: changes to screening

- What is the background?

The randomised trial followed 170,432 people over an average period of 11 years, of whom 40,674 underwent a single flexi-scope exam, and showed that bowel cancer deaths were reduced 43 per cent in a group that had the flexi-scope test compared with a control group. The test works by detecting and removing growths on the bowel wall, known as polyps, which can become cancerous if left untreated.

- What is happening next?

In the UK, the flexi-scope exam is currently only available through a referral from a GP or specialist, for patients with symptoms. Cancer Research UK is calling on the next Government to add the test to the existing national bowel screening programme as one of its first priorities.

- PR strategy

The in-house team at Imperial College and the Medical Research Council handled PR for the story. A press release was sent to more than 300 health journalists last week.

- Media coverage

Interviews with key spokespeople were conducted on BBC Breakfast News, the Today programme, ITN News, Sky News and the BBC World Service. The Financial Times and Daily Mail covered the story with eye-catching headlines.

16k people die from bowel cancer annually in UK

37.5k people are diagnosed with bowel cancer annually in UK

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