Screenings for bowel cancer will be offered in GP practices in Tayside, as part of a pilot scheme launched by Scottish health secretary Shona Robison today.
The pilot, created as part of the Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early programme, will test patients who attend at their GP practice with symptoms of bowel cancer, or are at risk of serious bowel disease. Before now, if someone displays symptoms of bowel cancer, they would be referred for a colonoscopy, an internal diagnostic procedure involving a miniature camera. The new test uses a faeces sample to test for blood content to asses the risk of bowel cancer. If blood is undetectable, this could rule out the need for a colonoscopy.
‘The NHS in Scotland is committed to ensuring swift access to diagnostic testing and treatment for all patients in Scotland and we will watch this pilot with interest,’ said Ms Robison. ‘Cancer services in Scotland have improved significantly over the past decade and increasing numbers of people are surviving cancer due to early detection and advances in medical treatment.’
The test will be offered at all GP practices in the Tayside area during the pilot, which will run until June 2016. Bowel cancer is Scotland’s third most common cancer, but if diagnosed early, there is a 90% chance of successful treatment. The five-year survival rate for bowel cancer increased by 19.4% in men and 17.9% in women between 1987-91 and 2007-11.
‘In Tayside, over 4000 patients per year are referred for investigation of bowel symptoms and often automatically have a colonoscopy - but only a small percent prove to have serious disease,’ said Craig Mowat, consultant gastroenterologist at NHS Tayside. ‘Bowel symptoms often settle spontaneously, or can be explained by less serious causes such as haemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome, so if a patient takes the FIT test the GP can quickly determine who needs further investigations and who does not.’