MASS screening for bowel cancer could start in the county soon.

Men and women aged between 60 and 69 will be invited to take part, with the upper age limit extending to 74 in 2010.

The Primary Care Trusts in Herefordshire and Worcest-ershire have combined to make screening possible.

The highest quality of colonoscopy is required and centres performing the procedure have to cover a population of at least half a million to organise it properly.

By linking up, the two counties have 750,000 people and are submitting plans to the Department of Health to start this summer.

It is understood the DoH, which rolled the service out across the country two years ago, will provide the funding.

Next door Gloucestershire has already started screening people every two years.

People won't have to travel to Worcester to be screened as it's planned as a DIY at home affair. Those between 60 and 69 will get letters asking them to post stool samples, which will be sent to local hospital laboratories to detect minute traces of blood.

About one in 50 is likely to be positive: these people will be referred for a colonoscopy to look for polyps or cancer.

If cancer is found, there'll be an urgent referral to a specialist surgeon at a local hospital.

When bowel cancer is found by screening it is more likely to be at an early stage and can be cured more easily.

Screening is being limited to those between 60 and 69 years as they have the highest chance of polyps in the bowel or bowel cancer, at an early enough stage to be cured.

Dr Rupert Ransford, from Hereford County Hospital and consultant Stephen Lake from Worcestershire, who are leading the local team, say they are confident screening can start safely in the next three or four months.

Cancer of the lower part of the bowel, the colon, occurs in 1 in 18 men and 1 in 20 women. It is the third most common UK cancer, causing 16,000 deaths a year. Symptoms: blood or mucus in stools, diarrhoea or constipation lasting more than two weeks, feeling the need to go to the toilet, even after doing so, pain or discomfort in the stomach area, unexplained weight loss, a lump in the abdomen. If you have any of the above symptoms do not allow natural embarrassment to delay seeking the advice of a doctor. More info at