‘Cancer screening helps diagnose disease earlier’
Louise Jeanes is the Cancer Programme Manager, hosted by Lincolnshire West CCG working countywide. Here, she talks about the work being done with partners across the county to encourage screening uptake and improve early cancer diagnosis rates in Lincolnshire….
The three types of cancer screening are an important element of cancer services in Lincolnshire. Screening for breast, bowel and cervical cancers is one of the best ways to prevent cancer. It also helps identify and diagnose cancer in patients at the earliest opportunity.
That’s why several partner agencies, including the four Clinical Commissioning Groups, Cancer Research UK, Public Health England, NHS England and many more are determined to increase the uptake of the screening programmes in Lincolnshire.
Statistics show that 63 per cent of cancers detected through screening are at an early stage. Cancer that’s diagnosed at an early stage, before it’s had the chance to get too big or spread is more likely to be treated successfully. The screening programmes are shown to save around 3,000 lives a year across the county.
But to be able to diagnose cancer early, we need patients to take up screening appointments. The three screening programmes available for cancer are breast, bowel and cervical. I would urge any patients invited to a screening appointment to take it up – it could save your life.
The current evidence suggests that breast screening reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer by about 1,300 a year in the UK. Breast cancers found by screening are generally at an early stage. These cancers are more likely to be cured and may need less treatment.
About 99 per cent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive their cancer for five years or more.
It is the most common cancer in the UK with around 150 cases diagnosed every day. Almost 80 per cent of women survive breast cancer for 10 or more years.
Meanwhile, cervical screening saves thousands of lives each year in the UK. In women, it is the 13th most common cancer.
The cervical screening programme started in the late 80s and since the early 1990s, cervical cancer incidence rates have decreased by almost a quarter in the UK.
It is also important to note that any ladies who have had the HPV vaccine should still take up the offer of cervical screening. The HPV immunisation programme is a really important part of the programme to prevent cervical cancer in women.
But it doesn’t replace the need for screening.
However, we expect cervical cancer rates to decline in the coming years as a result of the programme.
The Faecal occult blood test (FOBT) for bowel cancer – the fourth most common cancer in the UK – also helps save lives. More than half of people survive bowel cancer for 10 or more years.
People taking part in the FOBT screening reduce their risk of dying from bowel cancer by 25 per cent.
In Lincolnshire, the Bowel Scope screening method is currently being rolled out. It will soon be available to people aged 55. People taking it up having a 40 per cent lower risk of dying from bowel cancer.
Each screening programme has different eligibility criteria, but are all available close to home. Bowel screening is for men and women aged between 60 and 74, who are invited every two years. If you are over 74, you can request a screening kit and you complete the test at home before sending off your samples and waiting for results.
Women between the ages of 50 and 70 are invited every three years for breast screening. It is usually done in mobile units and women over 70 are screened on request.
There are also static units located at Lincoln County Hospital, Boston Pilgrim Hospital and Grantham District Hospital
Finally, cervical screening is carried out for women aged between 25 and 64. Those between 25 and 49 are invited every three years and those in the 50 to 64 age bracket are invited every five years.
Screening usually takes place at the GP practice with the sample often taken by a nurse who has been trained in the procedure.
Here in Lincolnshire, we know that we have room for improvement in reaching the ‘achievable’ targets set by Public Health England for screening uptake.
Some of our CCG areas perform well against the targets, while others fall below the targets.
Non-attendance for the screening programmes is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cancer. Therefore we will continue to work hard to encourage uptake and to make it easier for patients. However, we need patients to take up their screening invitations to help us identify cancer earlier.
I’d like to end by wishing everyone a prosperous and healthy New Year.