MEN over the age of 65 are being reminded of the importance of attending screening for a potentially life-threatening Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) by county hospitals.
The programme in Herefordshire Worcestershire has successfully screened 4,000 men in the last year, but officials say hundreds of others have not attended.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms are caused when the main blood vessel in the body weakens and expands. Most AAAs have no symptoms but, if left untreated, aneurysms can grow and rupture, which is often fatal.
More than 3,000 men die every year in England and Wales from a ruptured AAA, and eight out of every ten people with a ruptured AAA die before they reach hospital or fail to survive emergency surgery.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust – which run the local screening programme – is encouraging everyone who is offered screening to go to it.
AAA screening is offered to all men registered with a GP during the year they turn 65.
Geoffrey Gardner was sent a letter offering a screening appointment shortly after his 65th birthday. Initially putting the letter to one side and forgetting about it, he eventually decided to attend screening after talking to his wife – an ex-nurse – about it.
Geoffrey underwent the screening at his local GP surgery, which involves a simple ultrasound scan and only takes a few minutes to complete.
AAA screening results are available straight away, so there is no nervous wait to hear back.
Geoffrey was told that the scans had identified he had a small aneurysm, “I was very surprised really; I had no family history of it or anything. It was good that you’re immediately told your result and they’re very good at making you aware of what’s happening. But I didn’t fully understand all the implications at the time and so it wasn’t until my follow-up scan that that the seriousness of the condition dawned on me.”
There are three categories of aneurysm – small, medium and large – with surgery usually being needed when an aneurysm becomes large.
As Geoffrey’s aneurysm was only small he underwent continued monitoring and screening at regular intervals for the next two and half years, before being referred for an operation as the aneurysm had grown enough to require surgery.
Since the Herefordshire and Worcestershire screening programme began in 2011, around 450 aneurysms have been detected that need monitoring or treatment and more than 60 men with large aneurysms have been referred for successful surgical repairs.
Men over 65 who are registered with a GP and live in Herefordshire or Worcestershire and have not been screened can self-refer by contacting the Herefordshire and Worcestershire AAA Screening Programme directly on 01905 733830.