A new bowel cancer test will be offered to people aged between 55 and 60 that could significantly reduce their chances of developing the disease.
Medical experts predict that the new test could save 3,000 lives a year after the UK National Screening Committee approved its use on the NHS.
The current faecal occult blood (FOB) test involves people sending stool samples off for analysis, whereas the flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) involves a thin, bendy tube being inserted a short way into the rectum and lower bowel, enabling a doctor to look at the wall of the bowel, before potentially removing polyps which could develop into bowel cancer.
Health experts believe that by removing these growths at an early stage, many more lives could be saved before the disease develops.
Data taken from a one-off FS screening in men and women aged 55 to 64 revealed that the new test could reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer by 33% and cut death rates by 43%.
However, the NHS has not revealed its timetable for when the new screening programme will be available to the public.
Director of NHS cancer screening programmes Julietta Patnick said the new test would be an “important addition to our existing bowel cancer screening programme”.
Care services minister Paul Burstow added: “Bowel cancer is one of the biggest killers in England. That is why we are investing £60 million over the next four years to fund flexible sigmoidoscopy and why we recently launched a campaign to make people more aware of the early signs of cancer.
“We hope that these measures will help us achieve our goal of having cancer outcomes among the best in the world.”
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