The national bowel-screening programme, launched by the UK Government has been blamed for putting lives at risk due to delay in the screening process. The Department of Health had proposed to introduce a health programme in April, targeted at screening all 60 to 69 year olds.
A significant delay has been caused in implementation of the programme owing to lack of funding and preparation, according to reports of the Cancer Research UK. The health department however is stubborn that the screening programme was marching ahead, as planned earlier.
Approximately 16,000 bowel cancer patients lose their lives in UK, every year. It is the second leading cause of death in the region. Early detection remains the gold standard for effective bowel cancer treatment. If the screening programme were to be implemented, at least 1000 lives can be saved, say experts.
Rosie Winterton responded to a question raised in the Parliament by Government officials, stating that a site had been selected to initiate the national roll out. Contrary to the above statement, Cancer Research UK has said that four other websites would have to be identified, as promised by ministers.
The site identified by the health minister in Rugby has been operational form September 2000; no new center has been identified to expand the programme. Additionally, no orders have been placed for home testing cancer kits required for the programme. The Government has not confirmed the full funding for the cancer programme.
'The government has reneged on its promise over this. To claim the programme is going ahead as planned is a distortion of the truth. The government has fudged the issue and now says it 'hopes' the centres should be established by March 2007. Last year it pledged that it would start the scheme next week. This is a gross betrayal of trust and lives will be lost as a result of this vacillating behavior. I think it is a disgrace that the rest of the country does not have access to this simple technology,' said Prof. Alex Markham, Chief Executive, Cancer Research UK.
He further referred to the Rugby pilot programme that had saved the lives of nearly 1200 people through early diagnosis and surgery. In response to the above statement, a spokesperson for the health Department said: 'There is absolutely no truth in the rumor that the national bowel cancer-screening programme will be shelved. Funding has been agreed for the programme, which will be rolled out as planned from April 2006.'
The focus of the programme is to supply home testing tests to individuals in the target group, every 2 years. Stool samples sent back by the patient to the screening centre would be analyzed for evidence of any tumor. Taking into consideration the large toll associated with bowel cancer, it is high time that the health authorities take necessary steps at the earliest.