Bowel Cancer Screening

In the UK, the bowel cancer age range is now being extended downward to people in their 50s.  Depending on the testing capacity in your area, you will be invited to take part at some point in your fifties and thereafter every two years until age 74. You can elect to continue testing after 74 by contacting the National Bowel Cancer Screening helpline on 0800 7076060. Tests are sent out by National  Bowel Cancer Screening, via local hubs. The NHS in England is committed to gradually extending the age range to those who are aged 54, 52 and 50 by 2026.

The expansion of the screening programme in England is consistent with development since its launch in 2006. It initially covered the age range 60-69 and in 2011 it was extended to 74 year olds; those older than 74 years can request a FIT kit biennially from their Screening Hub but must do so as an individual and on each occasion.

In 2019/20 the programme adopted the ‘simple to use’ FIT kit in place of the guaiac faecal occult blood test (gFOBT). This new test is a markedly improved kit requiring a single sample which can detect the presence of very small quantities of blood in a poo sample. Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are tiny growths in the bowel, they are not cancer, but some may turn into cancer over time.

How to get on the Bowel Cancer screening programme

If you are registered with a GP and of an eligible age then you will automatically receive two yearly invitations to be screened with the FIT test. Everything you need is in the box, including instructions and packaging for returning your sample for testing. It may not be the way you imagined celebrating your birthday but it has the potential to be literally life-saving so please don’t ignore it!

If the FIT test detects blood, you will receive an invitation to a screening clinic to discuss your results and decide whether further tests are necessary.

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