New NHS campaign urges people in the North West to use their bowel cancer home testing kit
1 month ago
Thousands of people in the North West who have been sent a lifesaving home testing kit that can detect early signs of bowel cancer are being encouraged to use it and return it, as part of a new NHS campaign.
The national campaign aims to increase uptake of the home testing kit, to ensure more people are diagnosed with bowel cancer at the earliest stage, when they’re nine times more likely to survive.
The campaign will highlight how quick and convenient it is to complete the test with the advert showing a man joyfully running around his house with toilet roll before completing the test. The ad ends by saying: “Put it by the loo. Don’t put it off.”
Latest North West data shows that 68.3% of eligible 60 to 74-year-olds were screened within six months of receiving their invite in 2021/22, which is below the national average of 70.3%. It means that more than one in three eligible people in the region did not return their completed test kits
Each month, the NHS posts out more than half a million free Faecal Immunochemical Test kits (FIT) to people to use in the privacy of their homes.
The FIT kit detects small amounts of blood in poo that would not be visible to people, and detects earlier if there is something wrong.
People aged 60 to 74 years who are registered with a GP practice and live in England are automatically sent a FIT kit every two years. As part of plans to lower the age of people that receive the test to age 50 by 2025, 58-year-olds are sent the test kit and it is currently being rolled out to 56-year-olds.
The FIT kit is quicker to use than the previous bowel cancer screening home testing kit. To use it, people simply need to collect a tiny sample of poo using the plastic stick provided, pop it in the sample bottle; and send it free of charge to the NHS for tests in a laboratory.
In the North West, the charity Cancer Research UK is providing some additional resources to encourage uptake, including information and resources for health professionals and equipment for patients.
NHS chiefs have urged people not to be “prudish about poo”, with people often reluctant to talk about it as a possible bowel cancer symptom due to embarrassment.
Dr Michael Gregory, Medical Director at NHS England – North West said: “The Fit Kit is a vital part of our screening programme, and one of the best ways we can detect bowel cancer early, when it is more treatable.
“We know that there can be some hesitancy, and some people are prudish about poo, but the home testing kit means that eligible people can quickly complete the test in the privacy of their own homes.
“If caught at an early stage, bowel cancer is much more manageable, so I’d urge anyone who has received their Fit Kit to put it by the loo, and don’t put it off.”
Dr Ash Bassi, Consultant Gastroenterologist at St Helen’s and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, is concerned about low uptake of bowel screening in the North West and has urged more people to complete their tests.
He said: “The value of bowel screening is you can pick up cancer in people before it’s even symptomatic, often at an early stage before it has spread and the treatment can be curative. It reduces the risk of dying from bowel cancer by at least 25%. The tests also pick up polyps, which can be the precursors to cancer, and being able to treat those reduces the risk of developing bowel cancer in the future.
“The screening uptake in the North West is one of the lowest in the country and yet incidence of bowel cancer is one of the highest. Only around 10 to 15% of our patients come via the screening route and the rest come forward when they have symptoms. I’d like to see that change completely because the outcome is best for those who come via the screening route.”
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, and the second biggest cancer killer. But the chances of surviving bowel cancer are much higher when it’s found at an early stage.
People concerned that they may have missed their invitation or have lost or thrown away their kit can call the free bowel cancer screening helpline for advice on 0800 707 60 60. Information on bowel cancer and the screening programme can be found at: nhs.uk/bowel-screening.