Bowel cancer screening in England is set to start earlier, at age 50, Public Health England has announced.
Currently, men and women in England are only invited for screening once they reach 60 and are sent a home testing kit every two years up until the age of 74.
Bowel screening is already offered to people in Scotland once they reach they age of 50.
In some areas of the country, a one-off bowel scope test is also offered at the age of 55.
This involved a thin, flexible tube with a camera being inserted into the bowel to look for polyps which can turn cancerous.
If people have an abnormal result after a screening, they will be offered a colonoscopy.
Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer.
What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
- Bleeding from your bottom and/or in your stools
- A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in your tummy
Cancer Research UK said it was delighted by the government’s decision to lower the age bowel screening starts.
Sara Hiom, Director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, commented:
This will mean more cancers can be spotted earlier, saving lives. When bowel cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, 9 in 10 people survive but when it is detected in the late stages, survival falls to 1 in 10.
She did however add, that the biggest challenge was to find enough staff to carry out diagnostic tests, such as colonoscopies, which more people will need once the screening is extended.
BBC News. (2018). Bowel cancer screening to start earlier at age 50 in England. Accessible: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45143895. Last Accessed: 20 August 2018.