Public Health Wales is today launching a campaign targeting people aged 51-74 to encourage them to take up the offer of screening.

The latest results from Public Health Wales’ Time to Talk Public Health panel survey show that around 8 in 10 people would feel comfortable talking to friends and family, and to a healthcare professional about bowel screening (78 percent and 85 percent, respectively).

The findings come as the Welsh Government announces an expansion in eligibility for Bowel Screening, with those aged 51-54 invited to take part for the first time from October 2023.

Survey participants were asked if they agreed or disagreed with a range of statements about bowel screening. Nine in 10 people agreed that they would complete and return a bowel screening test kit by post if they were sent one (90 percent) and eight in 10 people indicated they wouldn’t be embarrassed to perform the test (80 percent).

More than half of people (55 percent) were not concerned that the test would be messy or difficult to handle and were confident they could perform the test correctly (53 percent). 

By removing any stigma around the conversation and providing resources and support, we aim to save lives by detecting bowel cancers when they are too small to cause symptoms, giving the best chance of treatment at an early stage. 

Graham Brown, Consultant in Public Health at the Screening Division of Public Health Wales, said:

“These results are very encouraging and show that bowel screening conversations are becoming a part of everyday life.  It’s clear that the survey respondents feel positively about bowel screening as we continue to improve the service to include everyone aged 51-74 years of age.

“But we know that intentions don’t always translate into actions, and not everyone who plans to return their test will do so.  Don’t ignore your free test kit when you receive it – it could save your life.  Early detection through our screening programme is vitally important as nine out of 10 people will survive bowel cancer if it’s found and treated early.

“Conversations can be lifesavers. Talking to friends and family about bowel cancer screening not only breaks down taboos but can also inspire those you care about to act. By starting these conversations, you become a champion for early detection, supporting healthier, longer lives for everyone around you.”

Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan said:

“It’s great to see so many people are positive about bowel cancer screening. Screening plays a vital role in detecting cancer at an early stage. Starting treatment early can drastically improve survival rates. 

“We have widened access to bowel cancer screening to people aged 55-57. This next phase will extend screening to people aged 51 to 54 – they will automatically receive their at-home bowel testing kit in the post. We will lower the age of bowel cancer screening to 50 by October 2024.

“I would encourage everyone to take time to do the test because it could help to save your life.”

While nine in 10 people agreed that they would complete and return a bowel screening test kit, Bowel Screening Wales figures show that 65 percent of people invited to take the test complete and return it. This difference could in part be explained by the ‘the intention-action gap’ theory, when peoples values, attitudes, or behaviours don't match their actions.

1,113 panel members responded to The Time to Talk Public Health survey conducted in August 2023 which asked residents of Wales (16+ years) their views on a range of health-related subjects including: Emergency departments, public health campaigns, the cost of living, dental health, and post-natal weight management.

If you are interested in joining the Time to Talk Public Health conversation, you can find more information and sign up here.