25/03/2018 13:48 BST | Updated 25/03/2018 22:25 BST

BBC Newsreader George Alagiah: 'My Bowel Cancer Could Have Been Caught Earlier If I Was Tested In Scotland'

He found out his cancer had returned just before Christmas.

BBC newsreader George Alagiah says his cancer could have been caught sooner if he was to have been tested in Scotland. 

The journalist, who is fighting stage four bowel cancer for the second time, has questioned why the screening age for the disease is at 60 in England when Scots can be tested from 50. 

There is less than a 10 percent chance of survival for at least five years for those with the disease as advanced as George’s is.


Speaking to The Times (£), George admitted he knew it is too late to be cured, but lamented his chances could have been higher if his cancer was caught earlier. 

He said: “Had I been screened, I could have been picked up. Had they had screening at 50, like they do in Scotland... I would have been screened at least three times and possibly four by the time I was 58 and this would have been caught at the stage of a little polyp: snip, snip...

“We know that if you catch bowel cancer early, survival rates are tremendous. I have thought: why have the Scots got it and we don’t?”

Bowel Cancer UK has said the disease kills nearly 16,000 people every year in the country. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK, behind lung cancer.

However, if caught at stage one, survival rates are nearly 100 percent for at least five years.

George, who fronts the BBC’s News At Six, also said he was struggling to come to terms with the prognosis and the reality of leaving his family behind.  

“The first time you are just stunned and shocked,” he said. “But somehow, when you think you have made it well, I might still make it... The disappointment was pretty bad.

“Those wobbly or darker moments are all to do with, for me, visualising my family without my presence. It is not ego, it is just that we are a unit. We love each other and I could break up that unit not through any fault of my own, and that is tough.”

George was first diagnosed with the disease, which had spread to his liver and lymph nodes, in April 2014.

He endured 17 rounds of chemotherapy and several operations, including the removal of most of his liver.

He finished treatment in October 2015, and returned to work on BBC News just two weeks later.

However, in an interview shortly after, he admitted he was “under no illusions” his cancer could come back.

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