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Number of people undertaking at-home bowel cancer screening in England drops

Posted: 05/09/2018

Research carried out by the European Journal of Cancer has found that half of the people in England who were sent a home-testing kit for bowel cancer in 2015 did not use it.

The research from University College London looked at data from 4.4 million men and women in England who were sent the bowel cancer screening kits over a five year period. In 2015, only 56% of women and 47% of men returned samples.

Cancer Research UK explained that people were missing out on a test that could reduce their risk of dying from bowel cancer by up to 25%. It hopes that a new screening test called the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), which is set to be introduced in England in the autumn, would lead to more people choosing to take up the opportunity. The FIT is easier to use because only one stool sample is required instead of three, as with the current postal tests.

Commenting on this data, Lucie Prothero, a senior associate in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team who specialises in delayed diagnoses of cancer cases, said: “Given that bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with 42,000 people being diagnosed every year, it is alarming that so many people are missing the opportunity to get an early diagnosis with the home-testing kits.

“We deal with many claims where cancer sufferers and their families are concerned that the opportunity for an earlier diagnosis was missed, and see the terrible outcome of such delays. Often in circumstances where there is a claim for negligence, it has involved patients presenting to a doctor with consistent patterns of symptoms, where appropriate investigations have not occurred or they have been inappropriately reported or followed-up.  

“But it is also true that screening programmes such as bowel home-testing kits present an important opportunity for people to take responsibility for their own health. We hope that more members of the public will engage with the screening programme once the new FIT tests are rolled out this autumn in order to spare them a late diagnosis, when treatment options and outcomes are often less favourable.”

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