Thousands of people in Lancashire and South Cumbria who have been sent a lifesaving bowel cancer home testing kit are being encouraged to use it and return it.
A new NHS campaign aims to increase uptake of the home testing kit to ensure more people are diagnosed with bowel cancer at the earliest stage when they are nine times more likely to survive.
The latest data shows the proportion of people choosing to participate in bowel screening nationally has increased to 70.3 percent- the highest on record. However, almost a third of people are not returning their test kits.
Dr Neil Smith, a GP and cancer director for Lancashire and South Cumbria, said: “Bowel cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer and screening helps to find it before there are any noticeable symptoms and when it is easier to treat.
“The kits we use today are quicker to use than the previous bowel cancer screening home testing kit and people simply need to collect a tiny sample of poo using the plastic stick provided, pop it in the sample bottle, and send it free of charge to the NHS for tests in a laboratory. If you are sent an NHS bowel cancer home test kit, please complete and return it. It could save your life.”
Each month, the NHS posts out more than half a million free Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kits for people to use in the privacy of their homes. The FIT kit detects small amounts of blood in poo – that would not be visible to people – before someone may notice anything is wrong.
People aged 60 to 74 years who are registered with a GP practice and live in England are automatically sent a FIT kit every two years.
Data shows nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK and more than 16,500 people die from it – more than 45 people per day. The chances of surviving bowel cancer are much higher when it is found at an early stage.
Due to increased uptake of the FIT kit, more cancers are now being detected by the NHS than when the previous test was used. The FIT kit also generates fewer false positives and finds more polyps – which can be removed by a colonoscopy and might otherwise develop into cancers.
National clinical director for cancer Prof Peter Johnson said: “Thousands of people in England develop bowel cancer each year, but the chances of surviving it are very good when it is caught early, which is why the NHS is sending out millions of free bowel cancer screening kits for people to use in private, at home, which could potentially save their life.
“We have seen a fantastic response to our previous cancer awareness campaigns, with record levels of people coming forward for cancer checks, and more people starting cancer treatment than in previous years.
“I would urge everyone who is sent a kit to return their test as quickly as they can because this can detect the early signs of bowel cancer and ensure that anyone affected can get treatment for the disease as soon as possible. Don’t die of embarrassment.” People concerned that they may have missed their invitation or have lost or thrown away their kit can call the free bowel cancer screening helpline for advice on 0800 707 60 60. Information on bowel cancer and the screening programme can be found online at www.nhs.uk/bowel-screening