Beating bowel cancer together

New bowel screening test leads to increase in uptake in Scotland

Tuesday 5 February 2019

The new bowel cancer screening test, the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), has seen levels of participation rise to a record high in Scotland.

The country was the first part of the UK to introduce FIT in November 2017. The test requires the collection of just one sample and is also potentially more accurate than the previous test (the Faecal Occult Blood Test) so we would expect more cancers to be detected.

Statistics show that from November 2017 to April 2018, 64% of those eligible returned their FIT. In the same period the year before, uptake of the previous test was 56%. The biggest improvement in participation with FIT has been amongst those living in the most deprived areas – up from 42.0% to 51.8%.

The number of men doing the test also rose by more than nine percentage points, from 52.6% to 61.8% and there has been a marked increase (8.2% to 18.4%) in uptake amongst those who had never participated before, but previously had the opportunity to.

Screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage, when treatment has the best chance of working. The test can also find polyps (non-cancerous growths) which might develop into cancer.

Screening is for people with no symptoms and looks for hidden blood in poo that can’t normally be seen. As part of the Scottish bowel screening programme, people aged 50-74 are sent a FIT screening test in the post every two years.

England will be rolling out FIT into their screening programme in April 2019 and Wales in June 2019. Northern Ireland is still yet to approve the new test. No matter which bowel cancer screening test you receive in the post, completing it and returning it could save your life.

Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, says: “It’s positive to hear that the introduction of the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) to the screening programme has increased uptake by nearly 10% in Scotland – this is very encouraging. It is especially good news that the uptake gap between socio-economic groups has narrowed as we know that people living in deprived areas are less likely to complete the life-saving bowel screening test.

“While the increased sensitivity and accuracy of FIT means we can detect more people who have bowel cancer, it also means more people who have traces of blood in their poo but who don’t have the disease will be referred for further diagnostic tests. This, together with more people taking part in screening, will undoubtedly put more demand on an already overstretched endoscopy service leading to hospitals breaching waiting time targets. What we need now is for the Scottish Government to implement their plan of action to tackle the endoscopy crisis. Until then, patients will continue to wait too long for tests that can diagnose bowel cancer or give them the all clear.”

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