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Bowel Cancer Screening
In the UK, bowel cancer screening is offered to everyone aged 60 – 74 (although this age range is now being extended downward to people in their 50s). Tests are sent out by National Bowel Cancer Screening, via local hubs, every two years.
The age range for participating in the bowel cancer screening programme in England is gradually being extended downwards to include everyone aged 50-74. Those that are 56 years old will now receive a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) kit in place of the Bowel Scope invitation previously provided, and in 2022 the Southern Hub in Guildford began sending FIT kits to 58 year olds. The NHS in England is committed to gradually extending the age range to those who are aged 54, 52 and 50 by 2026.
The expansion of the screening programme in England is consistent with development since its launch in 2006. It initially covered the age range 60-69 and in 2011 it was extended to 74 year olds; those older than 74 years can request a FIT kit biennially from their Screening Hub but must do so as an individual and on each occasion.
In 2019/20 the programme adopted the ‘simple to use’ FIT kit in place of the guaiac faecal occult blood test (gFOBT). This new test is a markedly improved kit requiring a single sample which can detect the presence of very small quantities of blood in a poo sample. Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are tiny growths in the bowel, they are not cancer, but some may turn into cancer over time.
If you are registered with a GP and of an eligible age then you will automatically receive two yearly invitations to be screened with the FIT test. Everything you need is in the box, including instructions and packaging for returning your sample for testing. It may not be the way you imagined celebrating your birthday but it has the potential to be literally life-saving so please don’t ignore it!
If the FIT test detects blood, you will receive an invitation to a screening clinic to discuss your results and decide whether further tests are necessary.