A LIFE-SAVING screening programme is to be launched in Bolton later this month.

The Royal Bolton Hospital will in be given £750,000 a year for the next three years to screen 700,000 people from Bolton, Wigan and Salford who are at risk of developing bowel cancer.

Bolton is one of the first areas in Greater Manchester to introduce the screening programme and just under 27,000 people, aged between 60 and 69, will be offered a place. People aged over 70 can also choose to take part.

Dr George Lipscombe, consultant gastroenterologist at the the hospital, said: "We've estimated that this programme could detect 50 cancers a year in the areas we will be providing services for.

"It's a really important and exciting step forward in tackling bowel cancer locally."

Each person contacted will be sent a test kit to be completed at home and a leaflet explaining about bowel cancer screening.

Jan Hutchinson, director of public health at Bolton's Primary Care Trust, said: "This programme is unique in that the initial screening takes place in the privacy of people's own homes.

"The test kit is simple to use and I strongly encourage everyone who receives an invitation to take part."

One woman who knows the importance of bowel cancer screening is Kathleen Hill.

The grandmother-of-six accepted a random invitation to be screened for bowel cancer in 1997.

Following the test, she was diagnosed with the deadly illness, at 59 years old, despite showing no previous symptoms.

Mrs Hill, of Rayden Crescent, Westhoughton, had to undergo emergency surgery to have part of her bowel removed and endured nine months of chemotherapy.

She said: "My youngest grandchild is three and if this hadn't been detected I doubt I would have been here to watch any of them grow up.

"I'm so pleased I agreed to be screened. It's one of the best decisions of my life."

The screening kits will be sent throughout this month.