HOME testing kits for bowel cancer which were sent to tens of thousands of people could have saved up to 150 lives.
The collection samples were distributed by NHS Lothian to everyone aged between 50 and 74 in the area over the past two years.
And with more than 50 per cent of people sending back the kits, treatment has commenced on 156 residents who may not have otherwise known they had the disease.
Figures released by the Scottish Government show around 104,000 people participated.
Following that, more than 2000 people were summoned for further examination after testing positive for cancer.
From there, 156 had it confirmed they were suffering from the illness, which kills more than 200 people a year in the Lothians. That meant they could undergo treatment more-or-less straight away, potentially saving if not their life, more invasive treatment at a later date.
Bowel cancer was specifically chosen by health bosses in Scotland because it only shows obvious symptoms at an advanced stage, lessening the chances of survival.
Dr Dermot Gorman, public health consultant for NHS Lothian, said: “Bowel cancer is one of Scotland’s most common cancers and 95 per cent of cases occur in those over 50.
“The screening programme offers a real opportunity to help protect yourself from bowel cancer and I would urge all 50 to 74-year-olds to use the free home testing kit – it takes a few minutes of your time every two years but could save your life.”
The Lothians was one of the first places in Scotland to take on the pilot scheme in 2008.
There had been fears that people would send back the samples, given that – even though it could be done in private – it was still an embarrassing, unpleasant process.
But the 50 per cent uptake, while short of the 60 per cent target, is still far in excess than many would have hoped.
One concern revealed in the data, released last week by ISD Scotland, will be the type of people who are participating.
In the Lothians’ wealthiest areas take-up was almost two-thirds, but in the poorest areas bout 30 per cent responded.
Cllr Maureen Child, Labour’s health spokeswoman in Edinburgh, said: “This is excellent news and the more prevention tactics we can have for illness the better.
“There was a good response and I’m sure it could be considered for other conditions.”
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