As April, BOWEL CANCER AWARENESS MONTH draws to a close, I would like to take this time to reflect;
Bowel cancer screening saves lives…
It has been nearly a year since we launched the Bowel Cancer Screening Colonoscopy Programme (BCSP colonoscopy) in Warrington and Halton endoscopy units at the hospitals. It is therefore ideal time for reflection!
Prior to April 2022, people in Warrington and Halton, over 60 who were eligible for screening and had a positive stool FIT test were referred for colonoscopy in the main Hub centre at Aintree hospital. After taking bowel cleansing medications (moviprep), they had to travel to Aintree. This obviously put many people off from opting into the screening programme understandably.
In 2021, we decided to get our endoscopy units at Warrington Hospital and Halton Hospital accredited through a rigorous process. We are pleased that our JAG-accredited Endoscopy unit is now an accredited BCSP unit. This was the first step. Next step was to get BCSP accredited colonosocpists in our unit.
Three senior Endoscopists - including myself, Dr Patani and Mr Pranesh decided to apply for the bowel cancer screening colonoscopist accreditation which was not an easy feat to achieve. We had to take an MCQ test to test our knowledge about cancer, polyp recognition, and procedure complications.
We had to have performed more than 1000 lifetime colonoscopies and have prior high JAG key performance standards (KPI). We then took the colonoscopy driving test which was tougher than the actual driving test and any assessments we undertook in our careers.
The driving test involved doing two colonoscopies and polypectomy while being assessed by two external BCSP colonoscopists in our regional centre at Aintree endoscopy unit. We passed the test, and we commenced the programme in April 2022.
We have two BCSP lists at Warrington Hospital and one list at Halton Hospital with a view to extending the service to do more lists in future especially given that the screening programme has been recently extended to 56 years. Since we started doing these procedures locally, we have noted increased uptake of colonoscopies as people prefer to get the procedures done locally.
We have performed around 324 colonoscopies and polypectomy, with abnormality in more than half of these procedures ranging from large, advanced polyps, cancers, and significant polyps. By removing these polyps, we can reduce the risk of future cancers developing.
Our endoscopy team are very happy that we can provide this valuable screening programme closer to home for our Warrington and Halton population. We will hopefully see better outcomes for colorectal cancers with earlier diagnosis in future and reduction of future cancers in the population.
We have received fantastic feedback from many who have undergone colonoscopy as part of the screening. Most of them have regularly commented on the good service and high standards of our unit and the amazing endoscopy staff. One of our patients who recently underwent colonoscopy has created a Bowel cancer awareness video that was on BBC news in April.
Everyone aged 60 to 74 years who is registered with a GP and lives in England is automatically sent an NHS bowel cancer screening kit every 2 years. The programme is expanding so that everyone aged 50 to 59 years will be eligible for screening. This is happening gradually over 4 years and started in April 2021 with 56 year olds. The programme has also started to include 58 year olds, so you may get a test before you're 60.
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Best Wishes ,
Clinical Lead Endoscopy