Editorials

Impending or pending? The national bowel cancer screening programme

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.38797.494757.47 (Published 30 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:742
  1. Wendy S Atkin, professor of gastrointestinal epidemiology (wendy.atkin@cancer.org.uk)
  1. Cancer Research UK Colorectal Cancer Unit, St Mark's Hospital, Harrow HA1 3UJ

    The NHS cash crisis must not delay this vital programme for long

    The government has, on several occasions, made a strong case for a national bowel cancer screening programme1 2 and in 2004 it committed to providing £37.5m (€54m; $65.5m) over two years for a programme to begin in April 2006.3 4 This deadline cannot be met, because it will take around six months to commission the screening centres, and no funding has yet been provided. The NHS financial crisis is clearly the cause of the delay, but it is unclear if this is a temporary hiccough or a shelving of the programme.

    The case for screening is clear. Bowel cancer is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer deaths in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, in 2004 the number of deaths from bowel cancer (16 148) exceeded the number from breast cancer (12 347) and cervical cancer (1093), diseases for which there are already effective, well run screening programmes. Five year survival rates for bowel cancer, although increasing, …

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