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FIT – Faecal Immunochemical Test
In 2019 the bowel cancer screening programme in England adopted the ‘simple to use’ FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test for haemoglobin) in place of gFOBT the (Guaiac Faecal Occult Blood Test). This new test is a markedly improved test that requires a single faecal (poo) sample which can detect the presence of very small quantities of blood in a poo sample. The sensitivity to blood of the FIT can be adjusted according to its medical application. The sensitivity applied of FIT for a GP presented with a patient showing symptoms of colon cancer will be different to that in an asymptomatic participant in the screening programme.
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 that you receive from the Bowel Cancer Screening Hub, 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 lifesaving 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 investigations are necessary.
GUTS trustee Professor Stephen Halloran was closely involved in developing and setting up the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in the UK and in other countries throughout the world. Stephen identified the value of FIT and recommended its use internationally in colon cancer screening programmes.
He said: “The screening programmes in the UK have proven to be a wonderful success and have saved thousands of lives. Our change to the very simple and sensitive FIT device has transformed the programme, it is so easy to use and a very sensitive marker of the presence of early cancer. FIT based bowel cancer screening programmes have been adopted across the world and we should be proud that this local initiative has contributed to saving lives internationally!
“Why would you not do a FIT screening test if invited by the screening programme? Sadly, 30% of those invited in England do just that!”