The bowel screening programme is underway
The start of Norway's third cancer screening programme was marked by an official opening at Akershus University Hospital on Monday 22 August.
One of the most common cancers
Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. About 4500 Norwegians get bowel cancer every year and around 1600 die annually from the disease. Survival of colorectal cancer is closely linked to how early the disease is detected. Figures from the Cancer Registry of Norway show that if bowel cancer is detected in time, more than 95% survives. If the disease is detected later when it has spread, survival is significantly lower.
"With this screening programme, the goal is to detect bowel cancer early. In this way, more people can survive the disease and the need for comprehensive treatment is reduced," says Kristin Ranheim Randel, head of the bowel screening section at the Cancer Registry.
The first invitations were sent out to 55-year-olds in Østfold and Vestre Viken in May this year. The offer is now being rolled out gradually to the whole country over the next year.
The Cancer Registry of Norway has been given responsibility for operating the new screening programme and cooperates closely with the regional health authorities to ensure the best possible services for the participants.
Test for blood in the stool
Men and women are offered screening with tests for blood in their stools every two years for 10 years. The stool sample takes the participants at home and sends it to the laboratory for analysis. If blood above a certain amount is detected, the participant will be offered colonoscopy at the hospital.
Hoping for good support
Since 2012, a Norwegian pilot study of colorectal cancer screening has been conducted. In this study, the attendance rate was 60% for the group that was offered screening with a test for blood in the stool.
"The pilot study shows a good interest in the offer, and we hope that even more people choose to participate when this becomes a national program," says Randel.
The figures from the pilot study may also give an indication of what we can expect from a national bowel screening programme.
If 1,000 people submit the stool sample, 65 will be notified that blood has been detected in the sample and referred for colonoscopy. With colonoscopy, we expect that more than half will be detected polyps that can develop into cancer, and two will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
The introduction of a third cancer screening programme is a collaboration between the regional health authorities and the Cancer Registry of Norway, which will operate the programme.
In 2017, the Norwegian Directorate of Health recommended the introduction of bowel screening to the Ministry of Health and Care Services. The following year, the regional health authorities, under the leadership of the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority, were commissioned to introduce the bowel screening programme in Norway.
This collaboration is important to ensure that screening services are the same for everyone, and do not come at the expense of other patient needs in hospitals.