Following a successful pilot involving 40,000 people, the UK National Screening Committee recommended the test should be rolled out nationally. The test will now be offered to all men and women aged 60 to 74, every 2 years.
Dr Anne Mackie, Director of Programmes for the UK National Screening Committee, managed by Public Health England (PHE), said, “This is good news as this new test will make it easier for people to get checked for risk of bowel cancer – as early diagnosis and treatment can save lives.
“PHE has already started looking into the logistics of introducing FIT across England and is keen to see this new improved kit fully available as soon as possible.”
The test looks for early signs of bowel cancer. Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives – if diagnosed early, more than 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully.
Bowel cancer is currently the second biggest cancer killer in England – every half an hour someone dies of the disease and it is hoped the new screening test will make a real difference.
Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison, said, “This new test is an exciting game changer for helping us beat bowel cancer. 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.”
Currently, only 58% of people complete a kit when sent it. The new test is easier to use than current home testing kits – only 1 stool sample is required instead of 2 samples from 3 separate stools with the current test.
It is expected to increase screening uptake by around 10% and result in around 200,000 more people a year being tested, potentially saving hundreds of lives.
Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said, “The Faecal Immunochemical Test has been proven to be more accurate and easier for people to complete than the current test. 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.
“This is crucial as we know that screening has a vital role to play in detecting bowel cancer early, when it is more treatable and chances of survival are high, so we are delighted that the government has committed to introducing FIT in England and we look forward to continuing working with them to ensure FIT is introduced into the programme quickly.”
The independent Cancer Taskforce has set an ambition of 75% uptake of screening across England by 2020, and the new test will help achieve this.