LETTER : Side-effects of the breast screening programme

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From Mr R. J. Aitken

Sir: Polly Toynbee is correct in noting that "there are no politics in the colon". However the media must acknowledge that it is at least partially responsible for this sad situation. Newspapers and glossy magazines abound with articles on breast and cervical cancer, not because this is politically correct but because it sells. Lack of public awareness in Scotland is reflected in the survival statistics, which show that 40 per cent of all patients presenting with colon cancer are dead within one year, compared with only 20 per cent for both breast and cervical cancer.

It is no coincidence that your health page today carries a significant article on a patient's experience with hysteroscopy. Every week I show patients the insides of their colons on a television screen and they watch polyps being removed, but I have never read an article about this in the Independent. Only 40 per cent of those with rectal bleeding (a key symptom of bowel cancer) seek medical advice.

If the Independent really wishes to improve the health of women, it would devote as much coverage to colon cancer as it does to breast and cervical cancer.

Yours faithfully,

R. J. Aitken

Consultant Surgeon

Eastern General Hospital