Bowel cancer screening at 50 could save a lot of lives

Today Public Health England announced that the screening age for bowel cancer will be brought down to 50. Currently in England bowel cancer screening and FIT home tests are only offered to people aged 60 or above. The news is particulalry welcome as the risk of a cancer diagnosis rises steeply from 50, and It is widely considered that earlier testing will save lives. This change in policy brings England and Wales into line with Scotland, which has had testing from 50 years old since 2007.

Bowel cancer is one of the most treatable of cancers if spotted early, with 9 in 10 people surviving for 5 years or more when it’s caught at stage one. This is among the very best of any cancer statistic.

Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kits are important for spotting the signs of bowel cancer

When you receive a FIT kit, it is important that you use it and is a very simple process. The test gives one of 2 answers:

  1. Normal
  2. Abnormal (abnormal doesn't necessarily mean there is cancer present)

It is important to note that you shouldn't panic if you receive an abnormal result, at this point you should seek further medical advice.

Know the symptoms of bowel cancer

Whilst this is a big change that could save a lot of lives, building awareness of the symptoms is still very important. Although bowel cancer has been seen traditionally as disease that affects only older people, we speak to people on a daily basis who have had a diagnosis of bowel cancer at 50 or younger. Owen Thomas was diagnosed at the age of 33 and Iona Haston was only 26 when she began her battle against the disease.

Owen and Iona's stories show clearly that we all need to be aware of the main symptoms of bowel cancer. They both shared their very personal stories in order to bring much needed attention to bowel cancer.

Learn your BCA to spot bowel cancer symptoms

B: 

Bleeding from the bottom - Always check after using the toilet.

C:

Change in your normal bowel habits that lasts for more than 3 weeks.

A:

Abdominal pain, acute tiredness and/or a lump in your tummy.

If you experience any of these symptoms over 3 or more weeks see your GP

Public Health England have not yet announced timescales for the roll out of this new lower age range, discussions are ongoing and it may be implemented in stages, but this is an incredibly positive change and one we're delighted to publicise.

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme operates a freephone helpline on 0800 707 60 60 for public and primary care enquiries.