A new, simpler, bowel cancer home testing kit will be rolled out across England and should see an extra 200,000 people tested a year.
The move, confirmed by Public Health Minister Jane Ellison today, could potentially save hundreds of lives.
The new test (Faecal Immonochemical Test) is expected to increase uptake of screening by around 10 per cent because is far easier to use that current home testing kits. It tests for hidden blood in stool samples, which can be an early sign of bowel cancer.
Following a successful pilot programme 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 – 74 every two years in a bid to spot the early signs of bowel cancer. Early diagnosis is the key to saving lives - if diagnosed early, more than 90 per cent of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully.
Bowel cancer is currently the second biggest cancer killer in England – every half an hour someone dies of the disease and it is hoped the new screening test will be a game changer. The new home testing kit is simpler – only one stool sample is required instead of two samples from three separate stools with the current test.
Currently only 58 per cent of people complete a kit when sent it. The independent Cancer Taskforce has set an ambition of 75 per cent uptake across England by 2020, and the new test will help achieve this.
Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison, said:
“This new test is an exciting game changer for helping us beat bowel cancer. It is easier to use, will increase the number of tests and help us tackle cancer earlier.
“Someone is diagnosed with bowel cancer every 15 minutes in the UK and we know early detection is absolutely crucial. More than 90 per cent of cases can be treated successfully if diagnosed early.”
Dr Anne Mackie, Director of Programmes for the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC), managed by Public Health England, said:
“This is good news as this new test will make it easier for people to get checked for risk of bowel cancer – as early diagnosis and treatment can save lives.
“PHE has already started looking into the logistics of introducing FIT across England and is keen to see this new improved kit fully available as soon as possible.”
Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive, Bowel Cancer UK, said:
“Today’s announcement by the Government to replace the test used in the England Bowel Cancer Screening Programme with the new Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) represents an important and crucial step forward in saving more lives from bowel cancer.
“FIT has been proven to be more accurate and easier for people to complete than the current test used in the Programme. Research has shown that FIT can increase uptake by 10 per cent and even double uptake in groups that have previously not taken part in the programme.
“This is crucial as we know that screening has a vital role to play in detecting bowel cancer early, when it is more treatable and chances of survival are high, so we are delighted that the Government has committed to introducing FIT in England and we look forward to continuing working with them to ensure FIT is introduced into the programme quickly.”