Eastbourne woman’s parliamentary campaign to lower bowel cancer screening age

Lauren with her mum, Fiona, who died from bowel cancer
Lauren with her mum, Fiona, who died from bowel cancer

An Eastbourne woman is addressing a parliamentary reception today (Wednesday, January 25) as part of a charity campaign to lower the bowel cancer screening age to 50.

Lauren Backler secured more than 270,000 signatures for a petition to lower the age after losing her mother to the cancer, aged just 55.

She is working with charity Beating Bowel Cancer to make a change and give patients a higher chance of survival.

Lauren, 26, said, “If we lived in Scotland my mum would have already been screened three times before she was finally diagnosed, increasing her chance of being diagnosed earlier and increasing her chance of survival.

“It breaks my heart to know that I lost my mum to this disease when she could have survived if they had caught it early enough – and that more people in their 50s will also lose their lives unnecessarily each year unless the age is reduced.

“I campaigned for this and the issue was raised in Parliament but its progress has stalled.

“We must all get behind Beating Bowel Cancer’s campaign to make sure people in their 50s throughout the UK are screened for this awful disease.”

New analysis by the charity shows that if the screening age was reduced to 50 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – to be in line with Scotland – more than 4,000 patients a year would have the opportunity of being diagnosed at an earlier stage.

Being diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage (Stage 1) offers a 97 per cent survival rate.

Currently, without screening the majority of patients between 50 and 59 may not be diagnosed until later through their GP or A&E.

At that point the cancer is more difficult to treat and, if diagnosed at a late stage (Stage 4), their survival odds could be as little as 7 per cent.

According to Beating Bowel Cancer, statistics also show you are far more likely to be diagnosed at Stage 1 through screening than through referral from the GP or through A&E.

With population growth and people living longer, the number of people in their 50s is set to soar.

Even without taking this into consideration, more than 40,000 people in this age bracket will be diagnosed with bowel cancer over the next 10 years. These people face a ‘diagnosis lottery’ due to the variations in screening across the UK.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland nationwide screening starts at age 60.

Director of Services at Beating Bowel Cancer, Judith Brodie, said, “Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer and it’s time we changed the odds for patients in their 50s in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“It’s shocking that they are not being given the same opportunity for an early diagnosis as those in Scotland, and they’re being badly let down.

“With the increase in the ageing population, there is no excuse for allowing this inequality to carry on, when having more people screened early will not only save lives but also save the NHS money.“

Treatment costs for a bowel cancer patient diagnosed at Stage 1 averages at £3,373, whereas the cost of treating a patient at Stage 4 is £12,519.

For more information or to sign up to Beating Bowel Cancer’s campaign visit www.beatingbowelcancer.org.