Low take-up for colon cancer screening

Over 16,000 persons were invited for a colon cancer screening: only 41% accepted the free invitation

One invitation could save a woman’s life: being invited to be screened for breast cancer.
Both government and NGOs have embarked on countless campaigns to help raise awareness about the importance of detecting cancer at early stages.
Breast cancer is the most common type of female cancer in Malta and, across Europe, suffers the highest incident and mortality rates. One in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her lifetime.
According to a 2012 Eurostat survey, Malta has the highest rate of malignant breast cancer in the European Union. In 2009, the death rate due to such types of cancer was 34 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to the EU’s average of 23.
In 2009, Malta kicked off a breast-screening programme for women aged between 50 and 60. A national programme for the screening of colon cancer was launched in late 2012.
According to information tabled in parliament, 403 women lost their battle against breast cancer between 2008 and 2012. A total of 1,486 cases were recorded in the national cancer register between 2007 and 2011.
Latest data provided by the parliamentary secretariat for health shows that 1,884 invitations were sent out to women between December 2013 and January 2014. 1,113 women accepted the call and seven were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast screening can breast cancer at a very early stage, with a mammogram detecting small changes in breast tissue which may indicate cancers that are too small to be felt either by the woman herself or by a doctor.
On the other hand, the uptake of invitations for colon cancer screening is not as popular: out of the 1,356 invitations sent during the same period, only 415 people took part. Thirty-nine cases where cancer was suspected turned out to be positive, while two other cases were discovered.
Since 2012, over 16,000 persons aged between 60 and 64 were invited for the colon cancer screening. However, only 41% accepted the free invitation and 200 of them were found positive to the screening test. All of them were referred for colonoscopy. Fifteen persons were found to be suffering from this cancer.
The government has also launched a separate programme for the prevention of cervical cancer: all girls born in 2000 and 2001 are eligible for the free administration of a vaccine that targets two strands of human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that affects women and is believed to be the major cause of cervical cancer. The vaccine is divided into a course of three injections.
This year, the invitation has been extended to those girls born in 2002 as well. By the end of January, a total of 3,682 girls were invited to take the vaccine: 2,921 girls have been administered the first vaccine, 2,639 have taken the second one and 1,461 have completed the course of medication.

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