Bowel Cancer Genetic Screening 'Could Save Lives'

Screening For Lynch Syndrome Could Help To Save Lives

01.10.2014

There are calls for young patients suffering from bowel cancer to be given a genetic screening test that could help to identify their risk of developing further forms of the disease in the future, meaning many lives could potentially be saved.

Individuals with a condition known as Lynch syndrome are more likely to develop bowel, womb and ovarian cancer than others, suggesting that detecting the disease early in life could help to ensure patients receive the right treatment to prevent tumours from growing.

Lynch syndrome is believed to account for approximately one in 12 cases of bowel cancer relating to people aged 50 and under, with around one-third of all sufferers developing this form of cancer before they are 70, unless they receive treatment for their condition.

There is thought to be a genetic link with Lynch syndrome too, as the family members of sufferers have a 50 per cent chance of also being diagnosed with the disease.

Lynch syndrome has received coverage in the media recently, after the late Stephen Sutton - a teenager who raised millions for cancer charities despite suffering from the condition himself - had a history of it within his family.

A screening test for the condition is used in Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, with patients aged 70 and under eligible for screening. It is also offered in some UK hospitals, but is yet to be rolled out nationally.

However, it is believed that if it was to be used more often, it could not only help to save the lives of many individuals, but could also save the NHS money.

Scientists at the University of Exeter Medical School analysed studies relating to Lynch syndrome, before concluding that tests, genetic screening and counselling could all be offered to potential sufferers at a reasonable cost to the health service.

Chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK Deborah Alsina commented: "It's critical that more lives are saved by ensuring people gain access to the screening surveillance they need, so that bowel cancer can be ruled out first, not last, in younger patients.

"While bowel cancer is thankfully relatively rare in people under 50, there are still 550 people in this age group who lose their lives to bowel cancer each year and that must change."

Expert Opinion
Regular reviews of the care received by patients, particularly those suffering cancer, is vital as medical advances are constantly occurring and new technology can be used to improve diagnosis and treatment. We welcome the calls for improvements to the bowel cancer screening process, as early diagnosis and treatment is vital to the chances of patients surviving and recovering from the disease.

“In our work we have seen first-hand the consequences of misdiagnosis or delays in the diagnosis of diseases, such as cancer, and it is crucial everything possible is done to improve the screening process and patients are able to access the treatment that could lead to an earlier diagnosis and the start of treatment.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner