SCREENING for bowel cancer must be offered as widely as possible to cut the number of deaths from the disease, Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds has said.

The Labour MP, whose mother, Pam, died on New Year's Day, two years after being diagnosed with bowel cancer, led a debate on screening for the disease in Parliament yesterday, Tuesday.

Opening with a heartfelt tribute to his mother, he said: "I know only too well the impact that bowel cancer has on families.

"Along with my father Jeff, my wife Rebecca and my mother’s many friends, I supported her through three arduous rounds of chemotherapy, helping her to achieve her goal of living long enough to meet her grandson, my son William, who was born some three months after she was diagnosed.

"Owing to the care and treatment she received, her inspirational bravery and her sheer determination, she lived not only to see him born but to see him reach his first birthday in September 2017, and to see her beloved granddaughters, Matilda and Florence, reach the ages of eight and five - precious moments that are now my precious memories.

"For families dealing with cancer, time is everything.

"Those who are diagnosed with bowel cancer have the best chance of surviving, and of surviving for much longer, if they are diagnosed at the earliest stage. This is why screening is so important."

Mr Thomas-Symonds also called for the faecal immunochemical test, which is currently the most effective available test for cancer and will be made available in Wales from March next year, to be introduced in England.

Responding to the debate, health and social care under-secretary Steve Brine said: "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up in the House of Commons and talk about the passing of a mother so soon after it happened - I am not sure that I could have done so when it happened to me."

Saying cutting rates of bowel cancer was a priority for the government and the NHS, he added: "This decision to screen from the age of 60 was also based on the fact that, as I have said, the risk of bowel cancer increases with age and people in their 60s are found to be most likely to complete a testing kit.

"However, that does not have to be the end of the conversation.

"Therefore, five years ago, in 2013, we started to introduce bowel scope screening for those aged 55.

"In the research that underpinned that decision, those who took up the offer of a bowel scope test and follow-on treatment reduced their chances of dying from bowel cancer by more than 40 per cent."

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer in the UK, and kills around 16,000 people in the UK, including 900 in Wales, every year. Although it can often be treated successfully if detected early, only 15 per cent of bowel caner patients are diagnosed in time.