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Men over 65 urged to take simple test for detecting aneurysm

Recommendation: William Craig
Recommendation: William Craig

By David Reed

Almost 900 aneurysms have been detected in men here through a screening programme over the last seven years.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a potentially fatal condition that mainly affects older males.

But it can be identified with a simple ultrasound test.

Each year 80-100 people here die from the condition.

The screening programme, introduced here in July 2012, offers the test to men as they turn 65.

To date almost 59,000 men have been screened and almost 900 aneurysms have been detected.

William Craig (65), from Ballygowan in Co Down, was detected with a small AAA, and urged other men to go for screening when called.

"I had never heard of AAA screening," he said.

"In fact, I didn't know what an AAA was before I received the invite. I had no intention of attending the screening and was going to dispose of the leaflet, but my wife Margaret, who read the leaflet in great detail, persuaded me to attend.

"The test itself involved me simply lifting my shirt whilst a hand-held ultrasound scanner was moved over my lower chest and abdomen.

"The procedure was quick, painless and the knowledgeable staff very pleasant.

"I highly recommend the screening programme. The staff were very helpful in explaining exactly what an AAA was. I'm so glad I went."

The aorta is the main artery that supplies blood to the body, and runs from the heart down through the chest and abdomen.

As some people get older, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak and balloon out to form an aneurysm, like a bulge in a worn tyre.

This is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which can be fatal if it ruptures.

The screening programme operates at 24 locations.

Dr Stephen Bergin from the Public Health Agency said: "Each year around 80 to 100 people in Northern Ireland die from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.

"Most people with the condition will be unaware that they have an aneurysm as they rarely have symptoms, but it is often life-threatening if it ruptures."

Research shows that men are six times more likely to have this type of aneurysm than women and the chance of having one increases with age.

If an aneurysm is detected early it can be monitored and, if necessary, treated.

Screening men aged 65 using an ultrasound scan reduces the death rate from ruptured AAAs by around 50%.

The risk of having an abdominal aortic aneurysm can also increase for those who smoke, have high blood pressure, have a brother, sister or parent has, or has had, an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

To date almost 59,000 men have benefited from the screening programme and almost 900 aneurysms have been detected.

l Men aged over 65 who have not been screened before can call the screening office and request an appointment on (028) 9063 1828.

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