Beating bowel cancer together

NHS to pilot blood test that detects more than 50 cancers

Friday 27 November 2020

A blood test that can spot more than 50 types of cancer, including bowel cancer, will be piloted by the NHS.

The Galleri blood test, developed by GRAIL, can detect early stage cancers through a simple blood test, and will be trialled with 165,000 patients by NHS England.

Research on patients with signs of cancer has already found that the test, which checks for molecular changes, can identify many types of cancer that are difficult to diagnose early.

If the NHS programme shows that the test also works as expected for people without symptoms it will be rolled out to become routinely available.

The test could help meet the NHS Long Term Plan goal of increasing the proportion of cancers caught early, which can be the key to reducing cancer mortality.

Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage of bowel cancer will survive for at least five years, but this drops significantly, as the disease develops. Only around one in ten people with advanced bowel cancer survive.

Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, says: “We are pleased that the NHS is investing in clinical research that investigates ways to detect cancers early. Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, but it shouldn’t be because it is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.

“Currently, only around a third of bowel cancers are detected at the early stages. This is still a long way from the NHS’ long-term goal and our mission to stop people dying of the disease."

“We are cautiously optimistic that the Galleri blood test could be a game-changer, improving the number of cases of cancer detected early and resulting in more people surviving bowel cancer. Time will tell if the encouraging results seen in patients with a diagnosed cancer can be replicated in people without symptoms”

Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England and improvement, said: “The NHS has set itself an ambitious target, to find three-quarters of cancers at an early stage, when they have the highest chance of cure. Tests like this may help us get there far faster, and I am excited to see how this cutting-edge technology will work out, as we test it in clinics across the NHS.”

The symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
    Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

If you have any symptoms, concerns or if things just don’t feel right, don’t wait for a test. Go and see your doctor straight away.

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