Screening launched to help men living unknowingly with killer

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PENSIONERS are being encouraged to get screened for a condition which affects an estimated 80,000 men in the UK aged between 65 and 74 every year.

A major national health screening programme has been launched in a bid to reduce the number of men who die from an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

The condition begins when the main blood vessel in the abdomen – the aorta – weakens and starts to expand.

If undetected, the aorta can rupture, causing a medical emergency that is usually fatal. Around 6,000 people die every year from ruptured AAAs.

Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been commissioned to provide the NHS AAA Screening Programme across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.

As part of the screening programme, around 8,500 men in the region will be invited for screening during the year they turn 65.

Men who are already over 65 can also arrange an appointment by contacting the screening programme office directly.

Vascular surgeon Ray Cuschieri, clinical lead for the NHS AAA Screening Programme in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, said: “The AAA screening programme is extremely important as men who have an AAA do not generally know they have the condition until it is too late, which is why screening is so important.

“The screening test is simple, painless, non-invasive and usually takes less than 10 minutes.

“Early detection of AAAs through screening enables us to offer monitoring or treatment, helping to reduce the number of deaths caused by the condition.

“I would ask every man who has received an invitation to consider attending for screening to benefit from the programme.

“I would also extend this invitation to any men aged over 65 who can also make an appointment.”

David Walters, from Retford, was diagnosed and treated for an AAA in June this year.

The 65-year-old received his invitation for screening earlier this year and, after some “gentle persuasion” from his wife, made an appointment in April.

Results then revealed that he had an aneurysm nearly seven cm in diameter – more than three times the size of an average aorta.

At risk of suffering a potentially fatal rupture, Mr Walters was referred for surgery and, early in June, underwent surgery to repair his swollen aorta with a graft.

He said the screening programme saved his life, and added: “It really is as simple as that.

“I felt fit and healthy but the scan showed that I had a serious condition that has very few symptoms.

“Because the scans are free, don’t take very long and are completely painless I would encourage people to make their appointments as screening will save lives.”

Janet Walters added: “David’s story proves that the programme saves lives and I think everyone in his age range should go for the scan.”

Musician George Kilpatrick, from Doncaster, is also encouraging men to get screened for AAAs.

The 66-year-old was on stage at the Pilgrim theatre in Boston, Lincolnshire on the evening of February 22 this year when he felt his stomach ”swelling like a balloon”.

He managed to tell the audience he wasn’t feeling well, before his aorta ruptured and he collapsed.

Mr Kilpatrick then woke some five hours later in intensive care, after undergoing major surgery to save his life.

He said: “I just wrote, ‘what has happened to me?’ on a piece of paper.

“I didn’t know anything about this condition, but it only took 15 seconds for it to very nearly kill me.

“I know about AAAs now and would strongly encourage people to make an appointment for the AAA Screening Programme as it will save lives.”

Men over 65 who have not previously been screened can make an appointment by contacting the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw AAA Screening Programme on 01709 321189.