AYRSHIRE has seen a spike in people attending bowel cancer tests than ever before.

The new figures revealed that more older people are showing up for screenings which could save thousands of lives.

Age Scotland warned that embarrassment is still causing needless deaths, with almost four in 10 people missing out on the life-saving test.

Now simpler tests saw screening rates beat the NHS target for the first time, according to ISD Scotland.

The areas with the highest uptake were the Borders, Orkney and Shetland, while Glasgow, Lanarkshire, and Ayrshire were still significantly below NHS Scotland’s 60 per cent target.

Bowel cancer is Scotland’s second biggest cancer killer, resulting in more than 1600 deaths per year.

Early detection can increase survival rates for the disease to more than nine in 10, with screening saving hundreds of lives a year.

The new test, which involves just one sample and can be taken at home, was introduced in November 2017.

Further new technology is under development to make diagnosis simpler and more accurate, including the Sonopill, led by researchers at Glasgow University.

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said: “It’s great news that more people are taking this lifesaving test, with simpler home tests making a big difference.

"But we need to do more to raise awareness and encourage everyone aged 50 to 74 to take part, especially men living in deprived areas.

“Bowel cancer is the second biggest killer in Scotland, and our risk increases with age.

But too many older people are too embarrassed to take thetest or speak to their doctor if they have concerns.

“I’d urge everyone aged 50 and over to overcome their unease and get screened, and encourage family members to do the same.

“We’re also pleased to see new diagnostic tools being developed to make the process simpler and more effective, with Scottish researchers leading the way. This will help more people get the prompt treatment they need.

“While not every case can be prevented, lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and cutting down alcohol can help reduce our risk.”