From June 2019, NHS Wales will offer genetic testing for Lynch syndrome to all bowel cancer patients and their family members. Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition that predisposes people to several different types of cancers. The move brings NHS Wales in line with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines.
'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,' said Lowri Griffiths, Head of Wales at Bowel Cancer UK, a charity that has campaigned for the change.
Bowel cancer is a significant cause of cancer deaths in the UK. Individuals with Lynch syndrome are at high risk of developing bowel cancer and other types of cancers such as stomach or ovarian cancers (see BioNews 944). It is estimated that 95 percent of people with Lynch syndrome in the UK are undiagnosed.
Previously, bowel cancer patients and their families living in Wales were not tested for Lynch syndrome due to a lack of staff resources and funding. The new screening programme will help to identify Lynch syndrome in patients diagnosed with bowel cancer, which will also facilitate colonoscopy testing in family members. This screening tool can allow early diagnosis of cancers and prevent certain cancers through early intervention.
'Today's firm commitment by NHS Wales is a critical step forward in saving more lives from bowel cancer,' said Griffiths. 'This will put pressure on England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to follow our lead.'
Helen Roberts of the All Wales Medical Genetic Service, which also campaigned for the change, told BBC News: 'Individuals and families with this hereditary condition will then be able to benefit from early surveillance and intervention, having a huge impact on many lives.'