THE age for bowel screening in Wales has been lowered.

People aged between 51 and 54 in Wales will now be sent at-home bowel screening tests, with the aim of catching bowel cancer early to maximise the best chance of survival.

Around nine out of 10 people will survive bowel cancer if it is detected and treated early.

The kits will be sent out from this week to people aged between 51-54 who are registered with a GP in Wales. The kits will be sent in the post every two years, with the programme for rolling this out coming into full effect for the eligible age group over the next year.

Eluned Morgan, Welsh Government’s minister for health and social services, said: “Even in the early stages of bowel cancer, you may feel well. So screening is vital to detect cancers before symptoms show, and early detection and treatment drastically improve survival rates.”

The move is part of a phased approach to lower the screening age to 50, based on the recommendation of the UK National Screening Committee and has seen an uptake of 65 per cent of men and women aged between 55 and 74 in the screening following the 2019 introduction of the new, easy to use FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) at-home testing kit.

Ms Morgan said: “I am very pleased to see more people in Wales having access to these precautionary, and sometimes lifesaving, bowel screenings.

“Last year, we widened access to bowel cancer screening to those aged 55-57. This next phase will now extend screening to people aged between 51-54 and we plan to lower the age to 50 in 2024.

“Over the next two years we are also increasing the sensitivity of the test to make it even more effective at detecting cancer.

“Although it is reassuring to see good uptake rates of the screening test so far, around a third of people still don’t take up the offer. So, I would encourage everyone who is sent a kit to take the test as it could be lifesaving.”

Steve Couty, Public Health Wales’ head of bowel screening Wales, said: “I’m delighted that we’re expanding the bowel cancer screening programme to include those aged 51 to 54 in Wales.

“Bowel screening can help find bowel cancer at an early stage, when you don’t have any symptoms. Early detection is so important because at least nine out of 10 people will survive bowel cancer if it’s found and treated early. Bowel screening also detects and removes pre-cancerous polyps that if left in the bowel could develop into cancer.

“The invitation and test kit will be arriving via post to those who are eligible over the next 12 months. The home test kit is easy to complete and to send to our laboratory for analysis.”

Genevieve Edwards, Bowel Cancer UK’s chief executive, said: “This is fantastic news and a massive step in the right direction towards screening from 50 in Wales, which we’ve long campaigned for. Screening is one of the best ways to diagnose bowel cancer early, when it’s much easier to treat, or in some cases prevent it from developing in the first place, and so inviting more people to take part is welcomed. We encourage everyone to complete the test when they receive it.”

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in Wales, with nearly 7,000 registered cases between 2018 and 2020, although thankfully, the survival rate is high.