NHS expands eligibility for at-home bowel cancer test kits

NHS expands eligibility for at-home bowel cancer test kits
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In a new announcement, the NHS confirms that at-home bowel cancer test kits will be rolled out to 58-year-olds in England.

At-home bowel cancer test kits help detect early-stage bowel cancer and are currently available to everyone aged 60 to 74 years old. However, the NHS has revealed they will extend this to people aged 58 years old.

People aged 58 years will now receive a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), an at-home bowel cancer test kit, once eligible, which detects early signs of bowel cancer by recording the presence of any blood in just a tiny sample of poo.

Around 830,000 additional people aged 58 years in England will now be eligible for the at-home testing kit. The programme will focus on rolling out the bowel cancer test kits to London as it has the lowest uptake in the country. The NHS plan to extend the programme to people aged 50 and over in upcoming years.

The at-home bowel cancer test kit can be life-changing

The bowel cancer test kit can be used at home by putting a poo sample in a small tube and returning it by post to the NHS for further tests. Newly eligible 58-year-olds will receive an invitation letter and be sent their test with full instructions and prepaid return packaging.

These testing kits can be life-changing as bowel cancer is the fourth most commonly found cancer in the UK, with almost 43,000 cases discovered each year. The positive is that the earlier it is found, the easier it is to treat.

National Clinical Director for Cancer Professor Peter Johnson, said: “We are expanding the bowel cancer screening programme in a phased approach to make sure we can diagnose bowel cancer as early as possible, often before symptoms appear – potentially saving thousands of lives with a simple and convenient test.

“I would encourage anyone who is sent a kit to return their tests as quickly as you can, because this can detect early signs of bowel cancer and ensure that anyone affected can get treatment for the disease sooner, while making it more accessible for people including, vulnerable groups to do at home.

“It is still important that anyone experiencing symptoms, such as blood in their poo or severe stomach pain, no matter their age, should speak to their GP as soon as possible – so please don’t be prudish about poo and get checked if you have any worrying signs.”

The impact of the FIT kit

Current statistics show that around 2% of people using the bowel cancer test kit will require further testing. The test was introduced in April 2019, and national uptake has increased to 66.8% compared to 59.2%

The FIT kit is a convenient option compared to previous home testing kits as it only requires one sample, which can be done from home and is then returned in a sealed bottle.

The increased uptake of at-home bowel cancer test kits means more cancers are being detected than previously recorded. It also has fewer false positives meaning more polyps can be removed at colonoscopy that may otherwise grow into cancers.

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “This is a step in the right direction towards screening from 50, which we’ve long campaigned for. Screening is one of the best ways to diagnose bowel cancer early, or in some cases, prevent it from developing in the first place, and so inviting more people to take part is welcomed.

“Offering the home test to more people is just one of the ways to improve bowel screening however, the biggest barrier to improving early diagnosis, and offering a world-class screening programme, is the long-standing workforce shortage in endoscopy and pathology services. The new Prime Minister must urgently address this in the upcoming 10-Year Cancer Plan to meet the ambition to diagnose 75% of cancers early by 2028.”


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