It’s simple, undergoing early screening for bowel cancer (regardless of any symptoms you may or may not have) can save your life. There are several simple tests available to check whether further examination should take place. The next stage is likely to be a colonoscopy, but it’s important to remember that most people who have this will not have cancer.
Faecal occult blood test
Every two years the NHS sends a free test to everyone in the UK over the age of 60 known as a faecal occult blood test (FOBT)*. By sending a small sample of your stool (poo) in a contained envelope, it will be tested for any presence of blood which may or may not be visible to the human eye. The test is entirely discreet, easy to use and can be done at home. You are required to send three samples from different days and results normally take two weeks to arrive.
*If you’ve been invited to take part in bowel cancer screening and need more information or a new test kit, please contact: Freephone 0800 707 6060
Faecal immunochemical test (FIT)
As recently as June 2016, the FIT was also approved as viable screening to check for hidden blood in your stool. It a good test due to the fact that diet and medicine is not likely to affect your results. Also, if you don’t have bowel cancer, you are less likely to get an abnormal result (a false positive) which can sometimes happen with the FOBT. What’s more, you only need to send one sample.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore these tests. Doing so is essentially gambling with your life. Those who we hear from who do follow our advice often express their relief at being given the all-clear and for those who are diagnosed early, their chance of being successfully treated increases to 90%.
Results for these tests normally take two weeks to return.
- Most people will have a normal result which means that no further tests are required. It would be another two years before you are contacted to take another test for (those still aged between 60-74).
- A few people might have an unclear result, in which case they will need to repeat the FOB test again.
- A few people will have an abnormal result. In which case, you will be offered an appointment to discuss colonoscopy at a local screening centre.
Roughly 1 in 20 people (male and female) will get bowel cancer. Don’t gamble on your life - take the test.
Niki Mellor, Colorectal Nurse Specialist, Derriford Hospital
In the event that you need further examination, a colonoscopy might be required to examine the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). A thin, flexible tube with a telescopic camera known as a colonoscope is used to look at the colon to assess for, polyps, tumours, ulcers and areas of bleeding or inflammation.
Bowel scope screening
Gradually being introduced in England is Bowel Scope Screening, offered to people aged 55 and above. A thin, flexible instrument with a camera on the end is used to look inside the lower part of the bowel and remove any small growths (polyps) which could eventually turn into cancer.
A lower testing age
“AT THE AGE OF 27 I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH BOWEL CANCER. THANKFULLY I ACTED ON THE SYMPTOMS SOON ENOUGH AND UNDERWENT MAJOR SURGERY BY BOWEL CANCER WEST’S CHAIRMAN MARK COLEMAN. I WAS FORTUNATE TO PULL THROUGH AND IT HAS REALLY CHANGED MY OUTLOOK ON LIFE AND THE NEED TO LOOK AFTER OURSELVES. THERE IS A TENDENCY TO THINK YOU ARE INVINCIBLE WHEN YOU ARE YOUNGER. BCW IS A FANTASTIC LOCAL CHARITY LOOKING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO THE LIVES OF PEOPLE IN THE WESTCOUNTY AND WE MUST SUPPORT THEM SO MORE PEOPLE LIKE ME CAN SURVIVE THIS DISEASE.”
Thom Hunt, West Country based TV presenter and bowel cancer survivor
Any person, any age could take the test. Bowel Cancer West firmly believe the current test age should be lowered to 50 and we are campaigning to do so.
Please sign this petition to help lobby our government into making this important change.
We shouldn’t assume Bowel Cancer is always associated with the elderly: