We're campaigning to improve early diagnosis by ensuring people have access to the right test at the right time. Over 16,800 people die from bowel cancer each year. However, this shouldn't be the case as the disease is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. More than nine in 10 people will survive bowel cancer if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
What are the issues?
- Improvements to bowel cancer screening: Screening is one of the best ways to detect bowel cancer at an early stage before symptoms appear, and in some cases even prevent it from developing in the first place. Yet, none of the UK nations are able to offer the recommended screening programme due to a lack of staff within services that diagnose bowel cancer – known as endoscopy and pathology services.
- People waiting too long for crucial bowel cancer tests: Most people are diagnosed with bowel cancer after speaking to their GP about symptom and demand for bowel cancer tests have been increasing dramatically. However, there is a serious lack of capacity to meet the demand. This is causing delays, with many people waiting too long between being referred and having their test. Without more staff to meet this demand, patients will continue to be kept waiting for crucial diagnostic tests.
What are we campaigning for?
- A bowel cancer screening programme in line with international best practice. The recommended screening programme screens people from the age of 50 using a test – known as FIT. This test can be adjusted to be more or less sensitive to traces of blood in poo. The screening programme must be extended to age 50 across the UK and FIT used at a more sensitive level so more cancers can be picked up early.
- More bowel cancers diagnosed by urgent GP referral and waiting time targets met. Patients with bowel cancer symptoms and those at higher risk of bowel cancer who need to be seen urgently must be prioritised by introducing new technologies and innovations to support GPs in referring patients for further tests.
- A fully funded long term cancer strategy. Evidence shows a link between long term cancer policy plans and improved cancer survival, so a funded targeted strategy for cancer is the best way to improve outcomes for bowel cancer patients.
- A fully funded workforce plan to tackle the capacity crisis. A detailed plan to address current workforce shortages and meet demand from a growing, ageing population so all bowel cancer patients get diagnosed quickly and can access swift treatment and high-quality care.
What have we done so far?
- After years of campaigning, we're pleased to be supporting England and Wales to lower the bowel cancer screening age from 60 to 50, following a recommendation from the UK National Screening Committee.
- We've fed into the development of new national plans for cancer across the UK to ensure early diagnosis of bowel cancer is recognised.
- We've worked in coalition with over 60 cancer charities, as well as health organisations to strengthen NHS workforce planning and put staffing needs of cancer services on the political agenda.
- We've been working with health services across the UK to help roll out new tests such as qFIT to support GPs prioritise the right people for urgent bowel cancer tests.
- We've set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bowel Cancer to raise the profile of bowel cancer issues within Westminster parliament. This brings together parliamentary leaders from different political parties and provides a space for them to discuss the issues important to those affected by bowel cancer.
- Alongside other cancer charities we've written to politicians calling for cancer screening to be put at the heart of the NHS
Ways to get involved with our work
- Become a campaigner. Join the thousands of people campaigning to help make real change happen for people with bowel cancer.
- Read our blog on ending the capacity crisis in NHS bowel cancer diagnostic services.
- Find out more about an optimal bowel cancer screening programme set out by the UK National Screening Committee.
- Share your story. If you've been kept waiting for a test for bowel cancer we want to hear from you.
- Sign up to receive our e-newsletter to keep up to date with our work.