Health officials warn of silent killer for men on Teesside

HEALTH officials are advising of the dangers of a silent killer and the lifesaving screening which could detect it just ten minutes.

Medical experts on Teesside have warned that men in Middlesbrough aged 65 and over, have the lowest uptake of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening in the region.

In 2018/19 just 65.6 percent of men, who qualified for the free screening programme, attended for a scan – well below the regional figures of over 80 percent attendance.

Emma Golightly, of the North East and North Cumbria AAA Screening Service, said: “An AAA is a bulge or swelling in the wall of the aorta, the main blood vessel that runs from the heart down through the chest and stomach.

“In most cases there are no noticeable symptoms and most people with an AAA won’t be aware that they have one, but over time the aneurysm can expand and burst without warning causing potentially life-threatening bleeding.”

Figures from Public Health England’s NHS AAA Screening Programme estimate that one in every 70 men aged 65 years and over has an abdominal aortic aneurysm which if left untreated can rupture.

Eight out of every ten people with a ruptured AAA die before they reach hospital, or don’t survive the emergency surgery.

Early detection and diagnosis enables the aneurysm to be monitored and treated. The only way to find out if you have an AAA is to have an ultra sound scan. These are available for all men aged 65 and over who are registered with a GP practice.  Men are automatically invited in the year they turn 65.

The National AAA Screening Programme has screening centres across the country and within the North East and North Cumbria service there are 38 screening clinics including; The Resolution Health Centre, Middlesbrough and Redcar Primary Care Hospital.

“Accepting an invitation to attend a screening could prove to be life-saving,” said Emma.

“An AAA is detected through lower abdominal ultrasound screening, just like a pregnancy scan, they are completely painless and take just ten minutes.

“It is a one off scan and results are available the same day straight after the scan.”

NHS South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group GP Dr Janet Walker is supporting the North East and North Cumbria AAA Screening Service, alongside local GPs, Public Health England and a host of voluntary and community sector organisations to try and get the vital health message across.

“It is extremely worrying that men aged 65 and over in Middlesbrough have the lowest uptake for screening in the region,” she said.

“We really want to work with the screening service to encourage people to attend their appointments where a simple ten minute scan really could prove to be lifesaving.”

Anyone who has missed their AAA screening appointment can contact the screening service on 0191 4452554 to re-arrange a scan.

Clinical director of the North East and North Cumbria AAA Screening Service and vascular surgeon Professor Gerard Stansby added:” It is a tragedy when men with so much to live for die unexpectedly of a treatable condition. Screening for AAA has reduced such deaths already and I would encourage all who are elgible to attend”.

For more information, including details of your local clinic, please visit http://www.qegateshead.nhs.uk/aaa

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