The NHS has sent millions of people in the UK a potentially lifesaving bowel cancer test kit as part of a nationwide campaign to improve diagnostics for the disease.
The bowel cancer test kit, suitable for home use, can detect the early signs of the disease. Diagnosing bowel cancer in the early stages means patients are nine times more likely to survive.
The NHS national campaign has been launched across TV, radio, and social media platforms this week, encouraging the uptake of the home testing kit to ensure more people are diagnosed as early as possible. The campaign aims to highlight the speed and convenience of the bowel cancer test kit.
Your next poo could save your life. Detecting bowel cancer at the earliest stage makes you up to nine times more likely to survive.
If you’re sent a bowel cancer screening kit, put it by the loo. Don’t put it off.
➡️ https://t.co/j1AI4yXIJz pic.twitter.com/jCwyeb7rVr
— NHS (@NHSuk) February 20, 2023
How does the bowel cancer test kit work?
The NHS delivers over 500,000 free Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kits monthly. The FIT kit detects small amounts of blood in poo that would not normally be visible. The FIT kit is quicker to use than the previous bowel cancer test kit used by the NHS. To use the kit, people need to collect a tiny sample of poo using the plastic stick provided before sending it to the NHS for tests in a laboratory.
All people aged 60 to 74 years who are registered with a GP practice and live in England are sent a FIT kit automatically every two years. The test kit is currently being administered to 58-year-olds as part of a plan to lower the age of people that receive the test to age 50 by 2025.
The latest NHS statistics have shown the proportion of people choosing to participate in bowel screening has increased to 70.3%, the highest rate on record. However, around one-third of people are not returning their bowel cancer test kit.
Breaking down the stigma around bowel cancer
Bowel cancer screening is vital in helping the NHS detect the disease at the earliest stage when it is more likely to be successfully treated. NHS chiefs have urged people to be more open about the issue, with people often reluctant to talk about bowel cancer symptoms due to embarrassment.
“Screening is one of the best ways to diagnose bowel cancer early, or in some cases prevent it from developing in the first place, so we want more people to do it and stop this disease in its tracks,” said NHS Director of Vaccinations and Screening Steve Russell.
“The FIT kit offers eligible people a chance to quickly and safely complete a test for bowel cancer at home and ensure that more cases are detected earlier,” he continued.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with the second highest death rate. Statistics show that almost 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK annually, and more than 16,500 people die from the disease.
“We hope this campaign helps highlight the importance of the bowel cancer screening programme and how easy the kit is to do. The test, for people without symptoms, now only requires one tiny sample of poo and can spot hidden traces of blood that could be a sign of cancer. Finding cancer at an early stage makes it much more treatable, and we recommend people complete the kit,” said Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK.