LBC caller says her friend was told she has cancer on the phone
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The NHS trial, involving 140,000 Britons aged between 50 to 77, has yet to release any results but, based on modelling data, the “Holy Grail” test has the potential to save more than 16,000 lives each year. Lead researcher, Professor Peter Sasieni from King’s College London, said: “The potential of this blood test to dramatically cut the number of people who die from cancer is enormous. “Of course, if the test is rolled out by the NHS, we will see some increase in short-term workload from the slightly higher number of referrals for cancer.
“But in the long run, there should also be many savings for the NHS, such as a reduction in the need for chemotherapy and expensive drugs for advanced cancers.” The blood test, called the Galleri test, picks up fragments of DNA linked to cancer which are shed into the blood. Not only that, the Galleri test could revolutionise the way cancer is detected by also suggesting where in the body the tumour is developing. Led by King’s College London Cancer Prevention Trials Unit, Cancer Research UK, and Grail (the US company that developed the Galleri test), volunteers who had signals of cancer in their blood were referred for a scan within a two-week target.
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Researchers are not yet revealing what proportion of those referred to hospital in the NHS trial turned out to have cancer. Early results from the trial will be shared with the NHS in 2024, which – if found to be successful – could be a “turning point” in how the health body tackles the disease. Rose Gray, of Cancer Research UK, said: “Research like this is crucial for making progress against late-stage cancers, and giving more patients the chance of a good outcome.” The hope is that the test could help to identify hard-to-detect cancers, such as ovarian and pancreatic cancer, which are usually picked up in the later stages.
By picking up on tumours before late-stage symptoms appear, treatment is more likely to be effective. Until the trial is complete, the best method for detecting tumours right now is to report any worrisome symptoms to your doctor and to take part in health check-ups. Cancer Research UK highlighted the signs and symptoms of a growing tumour, which are: weight loss, fatigue, and unexplained pain. Some “key” symptoms include:
- Croaky voice, hoarseness, or a cough that won’t go away
- Mouth or tongue ulcer that lasts longer than three weeks
- Coughing up blood
- Unusual changes to the size, shape, or feel of a breast, including nipple or skin changes
- A change in bowel habits, such as constipation, looser poo, or pooing more often
- Blood in your poo
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding, including after sex, between periods, or after the menopause
- Blood in your pee
- Problems peeing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent heartburn or indigestion
- Appetite loss
- Persistent bloating
- Very heavy night sweats
- An unusual lump or swelling anywhere on the body
- A new mole or changes to a mole
- A sore that won’t heal.
In the UK, there are three screening programmes for bowel, breast, and cervical cancer.
Bowel cancer screening
Everyone aged between 60 to 74 years of age in the UK is eligible for a free NHS bowel cancer screening. The programme expanded to include people from the age of 50 to 59; this has gradually been introduced from April 2021 and will stretch over the next three years. A home test kit, called a faecal immunochemical test (FIT), requires a sample of poo that is then sent off to a laboratory.
“This is checked for tiny amounts of blood,” the NHS explains. “If the test finds anything unusual, you might be asked to go to hospital to have further tests to confirm or rule out cancer.” Those eligible must be registered with a GP, and must live in England, in order for the FIT test to be sent out every two years. “If you’re 75 or over, you can ask for a kit every two years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60,” the NHS adds. Breast and cervical cancer screenings are also available to eligible Britons.
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