L-R: Bowel cancer screening nurses Same Toleman, Leanne Cross and Carole Valentini
From June this year the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme will be updating the kit that’s sent out to patients to help test for bowel cancer. This will result in us being able to increase the amount of patients we see and improve our ability to diagnosis and treat people early.
Early diagnosis of bowel cancer and treatment can save lives.
The new Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) has been proven to be more accurate and easier for people to complete than the current test. Research has shown that FIT can increase uptake by 10% and even double uptake in groups that have previously not taken part in bowel cancer screening.
How does it work?
Patients will be sent the simple FIT kit in the post. With the new test, only one stool sample is required instead of two samples from three separate stools with the current test. If the result is positive the patient will be called in to be assessed for a colonoscopy (a direct examination of the bowel).
The new FIT kit is a lot more sophisticated than the previous one. For example, if someone has a diet that’s full of iron or, if they are on iron supplements, the former kit could give a false positive. This means you would bring a patient in and take up clinic time doing an assessment when they are fine. The team are always happy to see patients and allay any concerns they have, however the new KIT will mean that we are not bringing in patients unnecessarily and their clinic time can be protected for the patients that need it most.
The FIT kit is expected to result in around 200,000 more people a year being tested, potentially saving hundreds of lives. Karen Steggles, Lead Nurse, said: “Our aim is to ensure that over 60% of our local population - who are 60 or above, take part in bowel cancer screening.
“At the moment there are pockets within our area, in South East and South West Essex where only 30 – 35 % of eligible people are coming forward for screening. It’s vital that we increase this amount and potentially save lives. Now that the initial home test is easier, hopefully this will encourage people to come forward.”
Following a successful pilot involving 40,000 people, the UK National Screening Committee recommended the test should be rolled out nationally. The test will now be offered to all men and women aged 60 to 74, every two years.