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Wales to take the lead in the test for Lynch syndrome.

Byline: MARK SMITH Health correspondent

WALES is set to become the first country in the UK to test all bowel cancer patients for a devastating genetic condition.

From June, health boards will need to follow NICE guidelines to test all bowel cancer patients for Lynch syndrome.

The condition increases a person's lifetime risk of bowel cancer by up to 80%, as well as many other cancers including ovarian, stomach, and womb cancer.

Last year a Freedom of Information request by Bowel Cancer UK revealed that none of the seven health boards in Wales were testing all bowel cancer patients for Lynch syndrome.

They cited financial reasons, staff resources and policies as the main barriers to testing.

By finding patients, family members who have up to a 50% chance of having the condition are also identified.

Currently, only 5% of those with Lynch syndrome have been identified, meaning more than 166,000 people living in the UK don't know they are at a high risk of cancer.

Bowel Cancer UK says it is vital people with Lynch syndrome are identified in Wales so they can take steps to reduce their risk of getting bowel cancer.

In Wales, bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer and the fourth most common cancer, with 2,200 people diagnosed each year.

Experts and clinicians at the All Wales Medical Genetic Service and the Wales Cancer Network have worked together to develop a new service approach to test all bowel cancer patients in Wales for Lynch Syndrome - the first country in the UK to commit to do this.

Lowri Griffiths, head of Wales for Bowel Cancer UK, said: "The firm commitment by NHS Wales is a critical step forward in saving more lives from bowel cancer.

"We have been calling for improvements to identify this group of highrisk patients for many years. This will put pressure on England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to follow our lead.

"Testing for Lynch syndrome has a vital role to play in detecting bowel cancer early, when it is more treatable and chances of survival are high.

"This hereditary genetic condition can have a devastating impact on families. We hear every day how generations have been affected by cancer because they have Lynch syndrome.

"By identifying families at risk we will be better able to save lives in the future."

As well as an increased risk of bowel cancer, people with Lynch syndrome are also more likely to develop bowel cancer at a much younger age - the average age of diagnosis is 45 years old - and they're also at a higher risk of a recurrence.

Professor Tom Crosby, medical director for the Wales Cancer Network, said: "I'm delighted that, with the support of all health boards, Wales is able to lead the way by committing to this genetic screening test. "The test will be available to all bowel cancer patients across Wales. If, following testing, the patient is identified with this condition, they and their immediate family can be offered regular surveillance.

"This includes a colonoscopy, which can prevent some cancers, enable early diagnosis, and take steps to decrease the risk of them getting cancer. All of this can help save lives."


Health boards will need to follow NICE guidelines to test all bowel cancer patients for Lynch syndrome
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 8, 2019
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