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Local bowel cancer project wins top research prize

A local project to improve bowel cancer screening uptake in patients in Pennine Lancashire has been given the top award at a prestigious Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Conference.

As part of a national bowel cancer screening programme, everyone aged between 60 and 74 is invited to complete and return a test sent to them in the post every two years. This project has gone one step further and has involved local GPs being proactive when faced with seeing patients in surgery and reminding and encouraging them to complete and return the test. If the patient has lost their screening test kit, the GP will order them a new one if requested.

Dr Neil Smith, GP Cancer Lead for Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) developed and led the project which won first prize at the CRUK bi-annual Cancer Early Diagnosis Research Conference in Birmingham, where national and international research on early diagnosis of cancer is showcased.

Dr Smith’s project involved over 70 practices across East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen and 3,000 patients. More than 4 out of 10 patients who had not participated originally in screening for bowel cancer, have now completed and returned their kits. As a result of the project being so successful in seeing a significant increase in the number of patients being screened for bowel cancer in the local community, the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance have funded a wider roll out across the North West. Other areas of the country are now also trying to set up the same system.

Dr Smith said:

“I am delighted that our work has been recognised and shared on such an important stage. It acknowledges the efforts of hundreds of local GPs trying to communicate with and help their patients. Bowel screening is the best way to detect bowel cancer early. The sooner it is found, the easier it is to treat and cure. I would recommend everyone who receives a bowel cancer screening kit to complete and return it. If you have misplaced yours, have a word with your GP and they can order you one. Do the test, it really does save lives.”

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the country is and responsible for over 16,000 deaths per year in the UK. It is difficult to diagnose early and often presents at a late stage. Less than 60% of those invited actually complete this potentially life-saving test.

For more information on bowel cancer screening, visit the Bowel Cancer UK website -
www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/about-bowel-cancer/screening/