Ten years ago the NHS launched a Nationwide Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.
The rationale for such a programme is to detect people who are at risk of bowel cancer – (the third most common form of cancer in the UK after breast and prostate) who might have the early stages of the disease and initiate treatment either before cancer has developed or before it has grown or spread.
The difference between early and late detection reflects survival; who potentially lives and who may not.
Until recently the most common form of screening has been something called ‘Faecal Occult Blood’ test, or ‘FOB’ for short.
This is a test done by those at highest risk, in the UK this is determined as men and women between the ages of 60 and 74 years of age, there is a move to extend the screening to men from 55 years. by sending a tiny sample of faeces to the laboratory where analysis determines whether blood is being lost.
Some people lose blood in their stools and this does not represent cancer, for others this is the first sign. Often, particularly at the start, the amount of blood being lost is too small to see and can only be detected in the lab.
A positive FOB does not mean you have cancer, it is does however increase the risk, suggesting that early investigation and treatment is important.
The usual investigations are blood tests followed by an endoscopic camera to examine the interior of your colon – a colonoscopy.
Currently the UK is introducing a more accurate test called ‘FIT’ which stands for Faecal Immunochemical Test. This is easier to do than an FOB – which requires three separate samples and is also more sensitive and specific; it is less likely to result in missing patients or investigating people who are well.
It is being rolled-out across the country.
Manor Field Surgery is using these tests routinely for patients who are either at risk or for whom there is a concern that there might be an abnormality of the bowel.
Early symptoms of bowel cancer are change in bowel habit – new diarrhoea or constipation, passing blood or mucus in the stool or a sensation of being unable to fully empty your bowel; a family history of bowel cancer is another reason to get checked-out.
If you receive an invite in the post for the screening test, please either complete and return or if you are worried, arrange to speak with one of the doctors or nurses in the surgery.
With early detection, bowel cancer is completely treatable and curable.
For more information you can check this website.