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Launch of new test for bowel cancer

A new test to detect bowel cancer is being launched this week. The “FIT” test looks for tiny amounts of blood in poo. A sample collection tube with instructions is now available for all G.P.s to give to patients if there is a worry that they could have bowel cancer.

The “FIT” test is a reliable method to indicate who needs further, more detailed investigation. It can also be used as a rule out test for significant bowel disease.

Bowel cancer is the 4th most common cancer in the country. It is responsible for over 16,000 deaths in the UK each year. It is more common in men living in deprived areas.  When diagnosed at its earliest stage, more than 9 in 10 people with bowel cancer will survive their disease for five years or more, compared with less than 1 in 10 people when diagnosed at the latest stage. Currently less than half of all bowel cancers are diagnosed at an early stage (1 and 2).

Dr Neil Smith, GP at Oakenhurst Medical Centre and G.P. Lead for the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance and Cancer Research UK, said:

“Bowel cancer is a terrible disease. Many of the symptoms and signs are not very specific for cancer and often only occur when the disease is advanced and often diagnosed late. I would like to see bowel cancer being picked up at a much earlier stage. This would make it easier to treat and save lives.

“We are delighted to now have this test available for all patients. It is important that G.P.s are aware of the test and that patients complete and return their samples. This FIT test is a new weapon in our battle against cancer.”

The introduction of the FIT test has been funded and facilitated by the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance. East Lancashire Hospital NHS Trust, NHS Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups have all worked collaboratively to offer this service.

Dr Kathryn Brownbill, Clinical Director for Clinical Laboratory Medicine services at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

“The laboratory service is very pleased to have received funding for this new equipment and the initiative will enable us to meet with national clinical excellence guidance. Patients with a positive test result will be guided on fast referral pathway, meaning that they will see a specialist cancer doctor within 14 days to aid earlier diagnosis.”