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Aneurysm screening saves lives in Wales

A screening programme to identify a previously undiagnosed and potentially life-threatening condition in men may have saved almost 200 lives since it was launched in Wales in 2013.

Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford today praised the Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme, which is run by Public Health Wales, as he set out  the support available to men to adopt a healthy lifestyle and improve their health.  

The screening programme for 65-year-old men looks for a swelling in the aorta, which could lead to a split or rupture – this is known as an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). The screening picks up disease in men who otherwise have no symptoms.  

There is a high risk of dying from a ruptured AAA and finding it early provides the best chance of treatment and survival.  AAA is six times more common in men than women and becomes increasingly common with age.

15,000 men were screened between May 2013 and March 2014 and 194 aneurysms were detected. If a small aneurysm is detected, the person is offered regular scans and monitoring; medication to slow its growth and advice about stopping smoking, diet and exercise. A larger aneurysm requires surgery.  

Professor Drakeford said:

“The overall uptake rate for men invited to screening was 74%, which is extremely encouraging. This screening helps to prevent emergency surgery and helps to support men to improve their health and lifestyle.  However, we are not complacent.  

“Public Health Wales recently partnered with the WRU to encourage men not to ignore their screening letter - it’s vital that men who are eligible get abdominal aortic aneurysm screening.  

“This is just one of a range of programmes designed to improve the health of men in Wales, including promoting men’s health issues in the workplace, through the Healthy Working Wales programme and investing in mental health and wellbeing.”

Other initiatives to improve men’s health include:

  • Introductory letters targeted at men to encourage participation in the bowel screening programme
  • Detailed analysis of lung cancer, which is more common in men, to help primary care services across Wales to develop their services
  • Aneurin Bevan University Health Board’s Living Well Living Longer programme identifies men who are at greatest risk of developing cardiovascular disease and agrees a plan of action with them to reduce risks. The scheme is being rolled out nationwide
  • Healthy Working Wales, which supports employers to target men’s health issues in the workplace, through the Corporate Health Standard and Small Workplace Health Award.
Channel website: http://gov.wales

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