Cancer experts have welcomed the introduction of a simpler home testing kit for bowel cancer in the hope it will boost uptake of screening and save more lives.
Public Health England today confirmed the Faecal Immonochemical Test (FIT) will be rolled out across the country, following a successful pilot.
“This new test is an exciting game changer for helping us beat bowel cancer”
The FIT, which tests for hidden blood in stool samples, will replace the test currently used in England’s national bowel cancer screening programme. The new home testing kit is not only simpler to use – with only one sample needed as opposed to three with the current test – but is also more accurate.
It will be offered to men and women aged 60 to 74 every two years in a bid to spot initial warning signs of bowel cancer, which can be treated successfully in most cases if diagnosed early on. Experts hope the test will boost uptake of screening by around 10% and save hundreds of lives.
The UK National Screening Committee, which is managed by Public Health England, recommended the test be rolled out nationally following a pilot involving 40,000 people.
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Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, hailed the announcement as “hugely positive news” that could “potentially transform the effectiveness of bowel cancer screening and early diagnosis of the disease”.
Deborah Alsina, chief executive at Bowel Cancer UK, said she was “delighted” the test was being rolled out and said the charity would work with government to ensure it was introduced into the screening programme as soon as possible.
“We at Bowel Cancer UK have long called for the introduction of FIT and have played an active role over many years lobbying for this change so we are delighted it is finally happening,” she said.
“FIT has been proven to be more accurate and easier for people to complete than the current test used in the programme. Research has shown that FIT can increase uptake by 10% and even double uptake in groups that have previously not taken part in the programme,” she added.
Currently only 58% of people complete a home test when they are sent a kit. The hope is FIT will help achieve the Independent Cancer Taskforce’s goal of a 75% uptake across England by 2020.
“This new test is an exciting game changer for helping us beat bowel cancer,” said public health minister Jane Ellison. “It is easier to use, will increase the number of tests and help us tackle cancer earlier.
“Someone is diagnosed with bowel cancer every 15 minutes in the UK and we know early detection is absolutely crucial. More than 90% of cases can be treated successfully if diagnosed early,” she added.