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Bowel cancer patients not given test

AAP logoAAP 8/08/2016

Bowel cancer sufferers under the age of 50 are not being given "lifesaving" screening tests at diagnosis for a syndrome that increases the risk of the disease, a UK charity has warned.

Lynch syndrome is a genetic condition caused by a defect in the cancer-preventing mismatch repair gene - resulting in an estimated 1000 cases of bowel cancer each year.

Findings from a Freedom of Information request sent to all hospitals by Bowel Cancer UK show 29 per cent, of the 156 that responded across the country, do not test patients under the age of 50 who have been diagnosed with the disease.

The charity also discovered that of the hospitals who do carry out the test, only 56 per cent perform it automatically as stated in the clinical guidelines of the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath). And only one in 10 are testing before bowel cancer treatment.

The tests help detect those at greater risk of recurrence, help inform treatment options and identify those with family who may also be at risk of bowel cancer.

The charity said Lynch syndrome has a "devastating effect on families" - often affecting generations. There is a 50 per cent chance that the children, brothers or sisters of someone with it will also have the condition.

But Bowel Cancer UK have said it is "crucial" to identify those with the syndrome and that provisional screening at diagnosis is "simple and cost effective".

Andy Sutton, the father of 19-year-old Stephen Sutton, who died from bowel cancer and became a household name by raising millions for charity, is also calling for all hospitals to test.

He said: "I know from personal experience how vital it is that every single person under 50 who is diagnosed with bowel cancer is offered testing for Lynch syndrome.

Bowel cancer is the UK's second biggest cancer killer and the fourth most common cancer. More than 2400 people under 50 are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK every year.

Bowel Cancer UK and RCPath will be submitting their findings to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence ahead of the publication of their guidance on testing for Lynch syndrome in October.

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