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‘Gamechanging’ Cancer Screening Offered To People With Lynch Syndrome In England

Thousands of people in England with Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition that increases the risk of cancer, are to be offered “gamechanging” screening on the NHS.

The world-first programme aims to reduce the number of cancer cases and identify them earlier when successful treatment is more likely.

As part of the NHS bowel screening programme, people with Lynch syndrome will be invited for bowel surveillance every two years. They will be seen by a specialist team and assessed for a colonoscopy, which checks for polyps and signs of bowel cancer.

“Incorporating people with Lynch syndrome into the national colonoscopy screening programme is gamechanging and will save many lives each year,” said Dr Kevin Monahan, of NHS England and a consultant gastroenterologist and endoscopist. “It will deliver prevention and early diagnosis of bowel cancer through timely and high-quality colonoscopy.”

Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition that increases the risk of certain cancers, including bowel, ovarian and pancreatic cancer. Out of every 100 people with Lynch syndrome, screening will prevent between 40 and 60 of them from developing bowel cancer, according to NHS England. About 1,100 bowel cancer cases in England are caused by Lynch syndrome every year.

About 10,000 people in England are already on the Lynch syndrome register and will be the first to be invited for screening every two years. The condition is thought to affect about 175,000 people in the UK, with only a small proportion diagnosed.

Last year the NHS in England began rolling out a genetic test for Lynch syndrome in an effort to increase the number of people diagnosed. All patients with bowel and endometrial cancer are now being offered the tests, which could help them access more personalised treatment.

Nicola Theis, a university lecturer from Cheltenham, was diagnosed with Lynch syndrome after her father was diagnosed with bowel cancer and Lynch syndrome. She will now receive regular preventive screening from NHS bowel cancer screening services.

“Being part of the screening programme gives me the confidence that any cancers that may develop can be caught earlier when they’re more treatable,” she said. “It’s great that thanks to the NHS’s Lynch syndrome screening programme, more people like me and my dad will be regularly checked for bowel and other cancers.”

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Dr Robert Logan, of NHS England and a consultant gastroenterologist at Kings College hospital, said bowel screening was great news for Lynch syndrome patients. “This is the first time any country has been able to deliver such a comprehensive, joined-up approach to diagnosis and early intervention for one of the most common hereditable cancer syndromes,” he said.

Tracy Smith, a trustee of the charity and support group Lynch Syndrome UK, welcomed the programme launch, adding that it would mean “potential cancers are more likely to be caught earlier, thus saving lives”.

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