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New test could cut bowel cancer deaths by 40%

23 February 2017 09:15

Around 16,000 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year

Around 16,000 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year

Bowel cancer could be cut by more than a third amid the development of a one-off screening test, new research suggests.

According to a long-term study, a new test will prevent 40% of deaths from the disease and 35% of bowel cancers overall.

Men and women across England will now be invited to have the screening around the time of their 55th birthday, and experts predict this could save thousands of lives each year.

Over 41,000 new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed every year in Britain, with around 16,000 deaths from the illness.

Professor Wendy Atkin, Cancer Research UK's bowel screening expert and lead author at Imperial College London, said: "Although no screening test is perfect, this study shows that bowel scope is effective in reducing cancer deaths for at least 17 years.

"Bowel cancer can be prevented. And the bowel scope screening test is a great way to reduce the number of people diagnosed with the disease so it's vital that no one misses out on the opportunity to get the test."

Anyone diagnosed with bowel cancer can arrange medical travel insurance for overseas trips they plan to make.

How it works

Using a tiny camera attached to a narrow flexi-tube, the bowel scope test inspects the lower part of the digestive tract.

The test does not detect cancers higher up in the bowel and if people have chronic symptoms they will need a colonoscopy for further exploration.

However, the bowel scope can detect tumours and polyps - small growths on the bowel wall that can become cancerous if untreated.

The faecal occult blood test (FOB) - the current screening test used by the NHS - is available to people over the age of 60 and is posted directly to people's homes.

Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK's head of health information, said: "Like other types of screening, bowel scope is meant for people without symptoms. It's a great way to help reduce the number of people developing or dying from bowel cancer, but it can't pick up everything.

"So it's still important to take part in the rest of the bowel screening programme and not ignore the home testing kits when they arrive."