NHS expands home-testing kits to detect bowel cancer earlier

Bowel cancer is currently the third most common type of cancer in England

The NHS has announced the expansion of its home-testing kits for bowel cancer in an effort to detect signs of the disease and diagnose it earlier.

The expansion of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme aligns with the health service’s aim of detecting cancers at an earlier stage when they are easier to treat.

Currently the third most common type of cancer in England and responsible for almost 43,000 new cases in the UK every year, bowel cancer starts in the large bowel (colon) and the back passage (rectum) of the body.

Through regular screening, the chances of successful treatment and survival are much higher.

First introduced in April 2019, every two years, the faecal immunochemical test (FIT) will be automatically sent to an additional 830,000 people in England, aged 54 years, to check for blood in a small stool sample, which can be a sign of bowel cancer.

FIT kits can be done at home by putting a sample in a small tube and returning it by post to the NHS for testing.

Currently, the FIT kits are already available to everyone aged 56 to 74 years. People who are newly eligible will receive an invitation letter, along with their test, instructions and return packaging, and will be sent back their results, as well as information about further tests if needed.

Additionally, people aged 75 years and over can request a kit by contacting the NHS bowel cancer screening helpline.

Recent data has shown a national uptake increase of the kit from 59.2% to 67.8% since April 2019 and for every 100 people, two people who use the kit will require further testing.

“I would encourage anyone who is sent a kit to return their tests as quickly as you can… [to] ensure they are sent on for further tests and treatment,” said Steve Russell, national director for vaccinations and screening, NHS England.

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