Back in December we wrote about Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that six centres in England would start using Bowel Scope Screening (BSS, also known as flexi-scope or flexible sigmoidoscopy) as part of their bowel screening programme in 2013.
This week, 55 year olds in the South of Tyne region (which includes Gateshead, Sunderland and South Tyneside) received the first wave of letters inviting them to be screened.
This is great news. Cancer Research UK has been involved in Bowel Scope Screening from the beginning – we co-funded a 16 year study which showed that it cuts deaths by over 40 per cent, and – unlike the current test – can actually prevent a third of bowel cancers among those screened.
As a result, it has the potential to save thousands of lives from bowel cancer each year.
As soon as the trial results were published in 2010, we said we wanted the Government to add BSS to the existing bowel screening programme, and later that year, they agreed, setting aside £60m to fund it.
Since then we’ve been calling for Bowel Scope Screening to start as soon as possible, so it’s fantastic to see it finally happen.
What does the test do?
The test used in Bowel Scope Screening, flexible sigmoidoscopy , uses a flexible tube with a camera and a light on the end to look into your lower bowel. It can spot both early-stage cancers and pre-cancerous growths known as ‘polyps,’ which can be immediately removed to prevent them developing into cancer.
There’s information about having sigmoidoscopy on our website, or you can watch this video.
Recent studies have shown that people find it ‘acceptable’ and ‘reassuring’.
It’s not a new test – it’s been used to diagnose bowel cancer in patients with symptoms for many years. But what is new is using it in this way to screen the population before they even have symptoms. And this could have a huge impact on bowel cancer in this country.
When will it be available?
This is the first of six ‘pilot’ centres which will iron out any potential problems in the system before rolling out BSS to the rest of the country. Over the next few months, another five centres will then start to offer Bowel Scope Screening.
By 2016, everyone in England should be invited to have a test at the age of 55.
What does it mean for me?
Bowel Scope Screening adds to the existing bowel screening programme, which uses the Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) – which looks for blood in your stools. People are invited from age 60 to participate (or age 50 in Scotland).
Under the new plans, if you live in England, you’ll be invited to be screened using BSS when you turn 55. If you decide not to go (and it is your decision), you can change your mind up until you turn 60. At that point you’ll be invited to take part in the existing bowel screening programme.
Whether or not you decide to have BSS, you will still be invited to take part in the existing screening programme at 60, to help spot any cancer that might develop later on. Although it hasn’t been shown to prevent cancer in the same way as BSS, FOBT is still an important way of helping to diagnose bowel cancer at an early stage, when treatment is more likely to be successful. The evidence so far suggests it’s made a big impact already and BSS takes this a step further.
This is an important first step. Now we need to make sure that everyone can benefit from Bowel Scope Screening. At the moment BSS is only being rolled out in England. We want to see Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland develop their own plans for BSS, including making sure they have the right facilities available.
If this test is made available across the UK, thousands of deaths will be prevented, and – even better – potentially thousands of people will be spared from ever having to experience this terrible disease.
- Dan Hughes-Morgan is a policy adviser at Cancer Research UK
Sandra April 4, 2013
I had bowel cancer in October 2007 the only symptom I had was constipation I was told by my Doctor there was nothing to worry about I was never offered any tests.Pains started in my stomach while on holiday in Suffork I was rushed to hospital and thanks to a fantastic surgeon my cancer was removed with no ongoing treatment.What a great breakthrough never turn down any tests they will probably save your life I was just lucky.Will I be able to have this test at 70?
patricia burns April 4, 2013
Will it happen in Scotland too?
Marie Rigler April 4, 2013
Why isn’t this being offered to younger men? My husbands father died of bowel cancer recently quite suddenly and was gone within three weeks. My husband is just 38 and his GP ridiculously told him he was too young to be tested…nonsense! This cancer can be in the body for 10 years before you even know you have it….you need to be testing the younger generation too, its unfair.
Trisha April 4, 2013
Can you tell me what you are doing to actively encourage the Scottish Government to follow the english government and also what can individuals do to encourage SG to adopt the english NHS approach
david ewing April 4, 2013
My father started with bowel cancer.it was operated and things were going well. Then shadows appeared on his lungs. 2 years later. I attended his funeral. When I have bowel problems in that area, the doctors tell me I am ok. At 54 at the end of the month, I worry but the NHS thinks I shouldn’t.
Caroline April 4, 2013
I have a family history of bowel cancer dad uncle aunt I’m 38 will I be offered any sort of screening any earlier? Fantastic news though
David April 4, 2013
Why is the BSS not offered by the NHS to the over 60s as an alternative to the unpleasant FOBT? Can the BSS be requested privately?
david April 4, 2013
Why can’t the NHS offer BSS for over 60’s as an alternative to the unpleasant FOBT? Can the BSS be obtained privately?
maxine April 4, 2013
My ex husband died aged 44 of bowl cancer. I would like to think my three children may now be tested before 55 !!??
Karen Gibson April 4, 2013
Many of my family have developed bowel cancer fortunately for me I was offered this procedure and have had it on a regular basis since a very early age. It is nothing to be worried about or feel embarrassed about it gives you peace of mind.
Frank Caves April 4, 2013
ONE of the symptoms of Bowel cancer is blood in or on your stools, if you have that go to the doc and ask for a test. Note _ piles gives you brighter red.
Angela Bolton April 4, 2013
I live in Coventry and have been screened for years now, I know someone who actually had Bowel Cancer, without this test, he might not have survived. Pioneered in St Cross, Rugby, this is excellent news that it is being done elsewhere. Very easy to do, they provide an envelope for you to send sample back to them. I did mine the other week and it came back with a nice letter very quickly, brilliant work they do.
David Pile April 4, 2013
I am over 70, will we be allowed to have the test.
Anthony martin April 4, 2013
This is exiting news as some about 15 years ago I was to find 6 parts acult blood in my stool test and then had an endoscope examination finding a polyp that was just changing from malignant to benign and removed in the knick of time ? And I’m here today to testify to this finding so anyone who reads this please don’t let your pride stop you from being checked over and saving any further problems in this area!
Kerry arnold April 4, 2013
This is great but what about younger people… I’m 33 and was diagnosed with bowel cancer in November 2012… I had been treated for IBS for 3 years.. I was told the misdiagnosis was because of my age… Young people suffer from bowel cancer too.
Judy Green April 4, 2013
Can you explain why the FOBT screening is not extended down to 55 yr olds.Is it not as effective as BSS or more expensive?
I would have thought it was less invasive.
M Do April 4, 2013
Wonderful news. Catching cancer in its early stages benefits all and hopefully reduces suffering and the costs of treatment. Am particularly interested in this test – am 67 and there is a history of bowel cancer in my mother’s family. Wonder whether I and other family members are eligible for such a test.
Maria April 4, 2013
I’ve had regular colonoscopy checks due to family history. Well work having done for the peace of mind it gives me. I’ve had polys removed which have fortunately proved to be cancer free. My brother was lucky in that his cancer was found early, during one of these check ups. Great outcome for us. He’s fine, fortunately. Keep up the good work!
Phiip Mortimer April 4, 2013
Recuperating at home following surgery 2 weeks ago. No symptoms, very healthy but screening picked up signs confirmed by ‘scope and subsequent scans showed found relatively early. Hopeful no further treatment will be needed.
Some shocked friends admitted to binning test kit when received by post. My wife found to have breast cancer 4 years ago through screening and she’s going strong having also been picked up early. Any form of screening is a no brainer!!!
Dorothy Symes April 4, 2013
This is an excellent idea,I would take advantage of any test offered to me regarding this dreadful disease.However as i am almost 75 I guess I will be exempt.The good outcome is that my children and grandchildren will hopefully benefit.having already lost my 39 year old daughter to ovarian cancer.
Marilyn Roberts April 4, 2013
My husband did the Bowel Screen Test May 2011 and subsequently he had a scope which was attempted without success. A second scope was carried out which showed no problems in his bowel, but before this he had a scan for his bowel. The scan showed symptoms which proved to be very early Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He has been successfully treated with mild chemotherapy and is now on a maintenance treatment which is a cancer trial funded by Cancer Research. Without the Bowel Cancer Screening test this cancer would not have been discovered until he had actual symptoms of lymphoma in his kidney and could have lost a kidney as a result. So my husband has benefited from the Bowel Cancer Screening in an unexpected but very beneficial way.
Bob Lucas April 4, 2013
I too would like to know if at the age of 67, I can request this test and be given it locally?
Colin Hoy April 4, 2013
Great – what if I’m younger (50) but have a history of bowel cancer in my family (father died @ 71 & brother @ 41) ?
H Gurung April 4, 2013
If see bloods in your stools can you ask for a screen test or need to wait until the specified age?
Colin Cornwall April 4, 2013
Why is it just available in England when we are the UK . . . . . .