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I want to spend a couple of minutes on research, because I know that my hon. Friend rightly has a long-established track record in being concerned about
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that. I can assure him that as we roll out the bowel screening programme nationally, it will be fully evaluated. We are also looking at flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is another potential way of screening for bowel cancer using a flexible bowel scope. Based on the promising results of a Cancer Research UK trial, we are funding a demonstration study atSt. Mark’s hospital, and inviting men and women aged 58 to be screened. The study is costing £300,000 and is expected to report in two years.

My hon. Friend has just asked me about communications. We established a bowel cancer communications group in 2005 with representatives from some of the organisations that he mentioned earlier, including Cancer Research UK, Bowel Cancer UK, Beating Bowel Cancer, Cancer BACUP and the Men’s Health Forum. I would like to pay tribute to those colleagues in the stakeholder groups for their hard work and support in taking this forward. The communications group is considering all aspects of communications, including reaching ethnic minority communities—my hon. Friend also raised that issue—as well as people from deprived areas and hard-to-reach groups. Bowel cancer screening leaflets, which will be sent out with each invitation, will be translated into a number of languages, as happens now in breast and cervical screening. Lessons are also being learned on how to reach these groups from the existing breast and cervical screening programmes and from the bowel cancer screening pilot.

The screening programme will save thousands of lives, but we are also taking further steps to tackle the disease. As my hon. Friend said, poor diet is associated with bowel cancer, and our five-a-day programme is promoting the increased consumption of fruit and vegetables. Early detection other than through screening is also important. That is why we are working with professionals and key stakeholders to develop awareness programmes. We are also looking at decision-supporting tools to aid GPs in referring patients appropriately.

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On the treatment side, we are funding a multi-disciplinary training programme in a precision technique called total mesorectal excision, which results in lower rates of recurrence of cancer and the reduced need for long-term colostomy. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published updated guidance in “Improving Outcomes in Colorectal Cancer” in June 2004, and it has published appraisals on the use of five drugs for the treatment of advanced bowel cancer.

I hope that I have demonstrated to my hon. Friends that the Government are fully committed to tackling cancer, and to the full implementation of the national health service bowel cancer programme. Bowel cancer is a serious condition that acutely affects not only the individuals concerned but their families and loved ones. It is time that we took the issue seriously and understood the potential consequences to individuals and to society of this horrendous disease. The Government can be proud of their record in putting in place a national screening programme for the first time. However, we cannot afford to be complacent. One life lost to the disease is one too many, and we have a solemn duty to do everything that we can to ensure that we detect the condition and treat it quickly, so that people do not have to suffer the horrendous consequences that have, sadly, led to deaths of far too many people in our society over the years.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this Adjournment debate and shining a light on this important issue. Some people might find it difficult to talk about, but it is extremely important that parliamentarians consider the issue, and I am delighted that he has asked the Government to account for themselves tonight—

The motion having been made after Ten o’clock,and the debate having continued for half an hour,Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at seventeen minutes to Eleven o’clock.

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