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HEALTH

France launches new colon-cancer testing system for over 50s

France has a nationwide colon cancer testing programme aimed at 50-74 year olds, and now tests can be ordered online and done in the privacy of your own home.

French health authorities are encouraging people aged between 50-74 to take colorectal cancer tests.
French health authorities are encouraging people aged between 50-74 to take colorectal cancer tests. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Why should I test for colorectal cancer? 

French health authorities recommend that if you are aged between 50-74, it is worth taking a colorectal cancer test every two years. 

About 2.5 million people in France take this test every year.

90 percent of colorectal cancers which are picked up early can be cured.

Getting a test is completely free if you are registered with the French public health system. The test itself is painless. 

How can I test for colorectal cancer?

On March 1st, the French government launched a new system whereby you can order a colorectal cancer test kit by post

If you live in France and are between 50-74, you will likely receive a letter titled: Dépistage du cancer colorectal: un test simple et rapide qui peut sauver la vie

It looks something like the sample below:

A letter inviting people to order a free colorectal cancer test kit.

A letter inviting people to order a free colorectal cancer test kit. (Source: https://monkit.depistage-colorectal.fr)

Note the invitation number in the bottom left hand corner – you will need it to order the test online. 

If you don’t have a computer, you can also get a test kit following a consultation with:

  • Your GP 
  • a gynaecologist;
  • a gastroenterologist; 
  • a preventative care doctor recognised by the French public health system.

You complete the test at home following the instructions provided and then send it by post (a prepaid envelope is provided) to a lab for analysis. Your results will be available online three days after you send the test and you will receive confirmation fifteen days later in the post. 

What if I don’t receive a letter? 

If you are aged between 50-74, you are supposed to receive a letter inviting you to get tested every two years, even if you don’t display symptoms or don’t have a family history of the illness. You will need to be fully registered in the French health system with a carte vitale in order to get the invitation

If you don’t receive one, you can contact your closest cancer testing centre – full list here

What about other age groups? 

If you are under 50 years old, you won’t be sent a letter inviting you to take a test because you are not considered to be at risk of developing this cancer. 

If you are over 74 years old, you will not be sent letters inviting you to get tested. 

If you’re not in this age group but you want a test, you can speak to your doctor to request one. 

What if I test positive? 

The vast majority of tests come back negative – and even if it is positive, this isn’t a sure sign that you have cancer. 

A positive test result means that blood has been detected in the sample. This could be a sign of cancer but could be something more benign. 

If you receive a positive test result, your doctor will refer you to a gastroenterologist who will perform a colonoscopy to check whether you have colorectal cancer. In more than half of all cases, this colonoscopy reveals no signs of cancer. 

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HEALTH

First suspected case of monkeypox reported in France

France reported its first suspected case of monkeypox on Thursday, after cases of the virus were reported in several neighbouring countries.

First suspected case of monkeypox reported in France

A first suspected case of monkeypox in France was reported in the Paris area on Thursday, the country’s direction générale de la santé has said, two weeks after a first case of the virus in Europe was discovered in the UK.

Since that first case was reported on May 6th, more than 30 other cases have been confirmed in Spain, Portugal, the UK, Sweden, Canada and the USA.

Here we explain what is known about the viral disease.

Why is it called monkeypox?

The virus was first identified in 1958 in laboratory monkeys – which is where the name comes from – but rodents are now considered the probable main animal host.

It is mainly observed in isolated areas of central and western Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, with the first case in humans reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Why is it in the news?

Monkeypox does not usually spread beyond Western and Central Africa. It is the first time, for example, it has been identified in Spain or Portugal.

It is believed the relaxing of Covid-19 travel rules have allowed the virus to spread further than usual.

The first case in the UK was reported on May 6th, in a patient who had recently travelled to Nigeria. But in the eight cases reported since, several had no connection to each other, and none had recently travelled, prompting experts to believe a number of cases have gone unreported.

Scientists are now working to find out if those cases are linked. 

What are the symptoms?

Initially, the infected patient experiences fever, headache, muscle pain, inflammation of the lymph node, backache and severe fatigue. Then pimples appear, first on the face, then in the palms of the hands and on the soles of the feet. The mucous membranes of the mouth, genitals and cornea may also be affected. 

It has been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as similar but less serious than smallpox. In most cases, symptoms disappear in two to three weeks and the patient makes a full recovery.

There are two known strains of the virus: the more severe Congo strain and the West African strain. UK cases reported to date have been the West African strain.

How is it transmitted?

Monkeypox is most often transmitted to humans by infected rodents or primates through direct contact with blood, body fluids, or skin or mucous membrane lesions of these animals. 

Human-to-human transmission occurs primarily through respiratory droplet particles during prolonged contact. But contamination can come from close contact with skin lesions of an infected individual or from objects, such as bedding, recently contaminated with biological fluids or materials from a patient’s lesions.

More severe cases are related to the length of time patients are exposed to the virus, their state of health, and whether the virus leads to other health complications. 

Young children are more sensitive to this virus.

Can it be treated?

There is no specific treatment or preventive vaccine against monkeypox – and the huge majority of patients recover fully with appropriate care.

Smallpox vaccination was effective in the past at also providing protection from monkeypox, but with that disease considered eradicated, people are no longer vaccinated against it, which has allowed monkeypox to spread once again. 

Should we be worried?

Experts have said that we’re not going to see the virus reach epidemic levels.

“There is no evidence that human-to-human transmission alone can maintain monkeypox in the human population,” the WHO has said.

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