A pilot of a new test for bowel cancer has found a large uptake in screening across population groups, according to research by Queen Mary University of London.
The new test, called the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), was piloted on 40,000 people in the North West, Midlands and the South of England. Researchers found that uptake almost doubled among those who had previously declined to be screened It rose to 25.6% for the FIT, compared with 14.6% for the current test, the guaiac faecal occult blood test (gFOBt).
Improvement in uptake was particularly pronounced in men, with an uplift from 57% to 65.5% participation. In men aged 60 and older who were invited for the first time, there was an increase from 54.4% to 63.9%.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of early diagnosis, said: 'These results provide real encouragement that FIT can further improve our ability to increase screening uptake and detect bowel cancer early. Cancer Research UK recommends that each nation's bowel screening programme should combine Bowel Scope Screening – also known as flexible sigmoidoscopy – with FIT. We know that Scotland has already committed to upgrading their screening programme, and we urge the other UK nations to do the same without delay.'
The FIT requires only one stool sample, compared to the three used for the gFOBt. The FIT uses a cleaner sampling technique than gFOBt and comes with an easy-return postal package. The screening test removes potential dietary interference and can measure very low concentrations of stool blood from bleeding colon cancers and pre-cancers.
Deborah Alsina, the chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK: 'Currently only around half of those invited take part in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme, meaning opportunities to detect cancer early are being lost. These exciting results clearly show that introducing the FIT test as part of the screening programme could help address that.'