TREVOR Catley has no doubt that the screening programme which detected his abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) saved his life not once, but twice.

The 70-year-old, who lives with wife Pat in Brynmawr, had quarterly monitoring checks after a small aneurysm was found through the Welsh Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme (WAAASP) in 2013.

At a 2016 check however, it was found to have grown to a size requiring treatment through surgery - and in November that year, during preparations at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, it was found that Mr Catley had heart problems needing major surgery.

Last June he had a quadruple heart bypass and having recovered, had his aneurysm treated in November.

Mr Catley’s is among more than 900 AAAs spotted through the screening programme since it began five years ago.

A swelling of the aorta, the main blood vessel supplying blood to the body, AAAs mainly occur in men over 65. A history of smoking and high blood pressure are key risk factors.

AAAs may rupture, causing serious blood loss, with a high likelihood of death. Early detection thus provides the best chance of treatment and survival, but the condition is largely symptomless, as in Mr Catley’s case.

“He had a screening invitation and it went in the bin, but they sent another and I told Trevor “you’re going”. It’s free and it saved his life,” said Mrs Catley.

Mr Catley “felt fine” but is glad he listened to his wife, and is full of praise for the screening programme, its “fantastic” staff, and the NHS.

“They’ve been great from the first appointment, and don’t forget you afterwards. I had a call recently from one of the team asking how I was,” said Mr Catley.

“I’ve no doubt screening saved my life twice, first by picking up the aneurysm and then because they found the heart problem when I was going for treatment.

“I had no idea I had such serious problems, but that’s how it is for most people with an aneurysm.

“I can’t thank the NHS enough, the treatment and the care has been amazing - and I would urge anyone who receives an invitation for AAA screening to take it up. It could save your life.”

Around 230 people a year die of abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Initial invitations for screening are sent to men aged 65 who are registered with a GP. Annual uptake is now around 80 per cent.

Men found to have an abdominal aortic diameter of less than three centimetres (about 95 per cent) are discharged from the programme.

For those with an abdominal aortic diameter higher than three centimetres, a surveillance programme is in place: Those with small AAAs (three-four centimetres) are offered an annual scan; those with a medium AAA (four-and-a-half to 5.4 centimetres) a quarterly scan, and a phone appointment with a AAA surveillance nurse to discuss the result and its implications; those with a large AAA (5.5 centimetres or more), or a growth of one centimetre or more in 12 months, are referred to a specialist vascular team.

Research has shown that screening can reduce deaths from ruptured aortic aneurysms by about 50 per cent in men aged 65.

WAAASP head Llywela Wilson said that while AAA is not a major problem in terms of numbers, the survival rate is poor.

“The likelihood of survival for a ruptured AAA in the community is only 20 per cent, and of the two cases who may reach hospital alive, only one is likely to survive,” she said.

“Detection, monitoring and treatment to prevent rupture is vital.”