A national male health screening program has seen 5,000 men referred for potentially life-saving surgery in the UK. The AAA program screens for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, a condition that kills 1,670 men a year.
The program has been so successful that it has the highest take-up rate of any national screening program, proof that men do care about their health and are willing to access help when “the system” targets men effectively and offers help.
What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
An aneurysm happens when the wall of one of your arteries is damaged and the pressure from the blood causes the wall of your artery to bulge. It’s often likened to a blow-out in the weakened part of a car tyre.
They are more common in the largest artery in your body, called the aorta, which runs from your heart. Around 75 per cent of aortic aneurysms happen in the abdomen and these are called an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm or AAA for short.
AAAs are much more common in older people and particularly men, which is why the UK screening program targets men over 65.
Symptoms of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
A men’s health success story
According to one report the UK’s death rate from AAA was the highest in Europe before the national screening was introduced. Since the screening program was launched, nearly two million men have been tested; 5,000 have had surgery and the death rate has been reduced by a third.
Perhaps most impressively, the AAA screening has the highest take-up rate of any national program in the UK, as the following list screening rates shows:
* Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (81.1% take up by men)
* Breast Cancer (71.1% take up by women)
* Cervical Cancer (71% take up by women)
* Bowel Cancer (58% take up by men and women)
What about women and AAA?
Women in the UK are not currently screened as AAAs are up to six times more common in men, but the National Health Service watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), is considering including women aged 70 with a history of smoking and conditions that raise their aneurysm risk, such as poorly managed high blood pressure.
Are men in Australia screened for AAA?
According to an article written for the Australian Journal of General Practice by Mayo Theivendran and Jason Cuen, there are no official AAA screening programs in Australia, despite population screening programs in the UK and Sweden and numerous other European countries.
The authors of the article said: “Australian Medicare rules prohibit reimbursement for population screening studies; however, targeted screening of individual patients, on the basis of age, smoking history and family history of AAA, can be requested by any medical practitioner and is funded through the Medicare Benefits Schedule in Australia as part of clinically justified investigations”.
READ: AAA screening annual data published for 2017 to 2018 - (Gov.UK Blog)
READ: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms explained (Mayo Clinic)
READ: Why do one in five men ignore the test that'll stop them dropping dead from a burst aorta that causes catastrophic internal bleeding? (Daily Mail)