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New, simple Lanarkshire scan could save mens' lives

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 15:44 GMT on Friday 29th March, 2013.
A SIMPLE scan could help save the lives of many Cumbernauld and wider Lanarkshire men.

Men in Lanarkshire are to benefit from a new screening test, which could add years to their life.

From April, men aged 65 will be invited to attend a screening appointment to receive an ultrasound scan which can detect abdominal aortic aneurysms - a condition that can affect the main artery in the abdomen (tummy).

An abdominal aortic aneurysm forms when the aorta, the main artery that supplies blood to the body from the heart down through the chest and abdomen, becomes weak and balloons out. Aneurysms may not cause any pain until they rupture.

Consultant in public health Brian O’Suilleabhain said: “This is a simple scan that can help save lives. The ultrasound scan is the same method used for looking at babies in pregnant women. An ultrasound scan is a simple, painless test taking 10 minutes to detect an aneurysm. The results are available instantly after the scan.

“We will be writing to men aged 65 to invite them to come for an ultrasound scan which can identify if they have an aneurysm. Younger men are not considered to be at risk of an aneurysm so they are not included in this national screening programme.

“This simple test means we can identify an aneurysm at an early stage and monitor or treat it if that is necessary.”

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Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neil said:  "Abdominal aortic aneurysms are a hidden killer which affects one in 20 men in Scotland, most of whom will be unaware that they have the condition.

"Sadly, the first sign of a problem for many men will be when the aneurysm ruptures and, by that time, it's often too late. If left untreated more than eight in 10 ruptures can prove fatal.

"Dealing with potential illness as soon as possible not only means that lives are saved, it also means an efficient NHS.”

One man who appreciates how important it is to diagnose and treat abdominal aortic aneurysms is George Casey from Uddingston.

George has a history of ill health. Apart from diabetes, he also suffers from lung, thyroid and blood pressure problems.

George said: “In January 2012, I started experiencing strange symptoms and I went to see my GP who referred me to hospital.

“They told me that I had obstructive jaundice. But because of my health problems, they did lots of tests to see if I could survive an operation. By doing these tests they found I also had an abdominal aortic aneurysm. “

George added: “Discovering I had an aneurysm was a shock. If I hadn’t had my other health problems, they wouldn’t have found the aneurysm.  It was 5.8cm and was a ticking time bomb. It could have killed me.”

NHS Lanarkshire will start to post letters to men aged 65 from 5 April 2013, inviting them to attend screening as part of Scotland’s Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme, the first male-only national screening programme.

Clinics will be held in each of Lanarkshire’s three hospitals – Hairmyres, Monklands and Wishaw and will begin at the end of April. Clinics will begin in some health centres later in 2013.

Around 95% of men will have a normal scan and will exit the screening programme. This is because the chance of a normal aorta developing an aneurysm is extremely rare.

If a small or medium aneurysm is found, regular scans will be offered to monitor its size. Every man found to have a large aneurysm will be fast tracked to vascular services and assessed for treatment.

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