Bowel cancer screening
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme began in 2006. Men and women between 60 and 75 are invited for screening by post. Screening consists of a home testing kit, called an FOBt (faecal occult blood test) kit. The kit arrives through the post when screening is due. The kit is used to collect tiny stool samples on a special card. The card is then sealed in a special hygienic freepost envelope and sent to a laboratory where it will be checked for traces of blood, which may indicate a problem.
Results are received in writing within two weeks of sending in the test kit.
There are three types of result:
- Normal: no blood was found in the samples. Screening will be offered again in two years’ time.
- Unclear: there were possible traces of blood that could be caused by factors other than cancer, such as haemorrhoids (piles) or stomach ulcers. If you have an unclear result, you will be asked to repeat the test kit up to twice more.
- Abnormal: blood was definitely found in the samples. Again, this could be
from piles or bowel polyps (small growths not usually cancerous). If you have an abnormal result, you will be offered an appointment with a specialist nurse to discuss having an examination of the bowel, called a colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy is an investigation of the lining of the large bowel (colon). A thin flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end is passed into your bottom and guided around the bowel. Only around 2 in every 100 people completing the FOBt kit will have an abnormal result and will be offered a colonoscopy. Of those who have a colonoscopy, only about 1 in 10 will have cancer.
Bowel cancer screening in Somerset
Colonoscopy for positive FOBt takes place at Yeovil and Musgrove Park Hospitals.
Doctors performing colonoscopy for bowel cancer screening have to demonstrate the highest standards of colonoscopy and have the quality of their practice continually monitored. At present there are 5 endoscopists in Somerset who are accredited to perform screening colonoscopy.
The screening programme has been highly successful, finding cancers at an earlier stage where they can be more easily and successfully treated. Bowel polyps which can progress to cancer can also be removed at colonoscopy, thus reducing the future risk of developing bowel cancer.
In 2014, flexible sigmoidoscopy screening (Bowelscope) commenced in Somerset, part of the first wave of roll-out of this national programme. Individuals aged 55 are offered a flexible sigmoidoscopy. Patients with bowel polyps (approximately 5-10%) then undergo colonoscopy. The programme is being gradually extended throughout the county with all regions included by 2017.
You may find the following links helpful:
Musgrove Park Hospital
Somerset Nuffield Hospital
Appointments: 01823 286991
Secretary: 01823 250640
Monday 6-7.30 pm
Friday 9-12 am