Our policy on bowel cancer screening

We would like to see the current programme made even more effective by replacing the currently used Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) with the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) and ensuring full roll out of Bowel Scope as a one-off test in all four nations. A clear ambition should also be set for increasing participation in the bowel cancer screening programmes.

Bowel screening is the best way to diagnose bowel cancer early. Early diagnosis is crucial - patients diagnosed with bowel cancer at the earliest stage have a better than 90% chance of surviving for five years, whilst for those diagnosed at the latest stage this drops to just 6.6%. However, there is considerable variation in participation levels in bowel screening across the country, and the UK average is only around 56%. We call on policymakers in all four nations to set an ambition to increase participation in the bowel screening programme. For example, screening programmes should aim to increase participation by at least 10% or set an overall ambition to reach 75% uptake.

The UK National Screening Committee has recommended that the current used FOBT is replaced with the superior Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). The evidence is clear that this is a more effective test and could increase uptake of the programme. Scotland has committed to introducing this new test in 2017 and we would like to see similar commitment from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Due to the current limitations in endoscopy capacity, we appreciate there may need to be a phased increase in sensitivity once the test has been introduced, but we expect a clear detailed timetable for reaching optimum levels of sensitivity.

Cancer Research UK co-funded a trial of Bowel Scope Screening, a test which could save thousands of lives a year when fully rolled out. Bowel Scope is being rolled out in England and by the end of 2016 everyone in England should be offered Bowel Scope Screening when they turn 55, in addition to FOBT screening at 60. Some people are being invited at age 60 in Scotland. This is great news, but we would like to see commitment for Bowel Scope Screening to be fully rolled out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so that people across the UK can benefit from this breakthrough.

Available data is crucial to our understanding of cancers; delays in access to data will lead to delays in progress. We would therefore welcome increased access to data on the bowel screening programme, including timely figures on screening uptake. 

Contact us

Get in touch with our policy team to find out more information about our policy on early diagnosis.

Call our policy team for more information.

020 3469 8360 

Email the team

Local stats

For your local stats, tailored for your constituency, visit the Local Cancer Statistics website. 

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