Low take up rate for new bowel screening test

Posted on - 21/09/2015
Author: Matt Sanders

According to a report published in the Journal of Medical Screening today, more than half of people invited to take a new bowel cancer screening test didn’t take up the opportunity.

The report from Cancer Research UK shows that those from poorer neighbourhoods were less likely to take up the bowel scope screening test, with only one third in the most deprived neighbourhoods going for their appointment compared to over half in the most affluent.


In the most ethnically diverse area, 39 per cent decided to have the test compared to 45 per cent of people in the least ethnically diverse area. And more men (45 per cent) took the potentially life-saving test than women (42 per cent).


Chief Executive of the charity Beating Bowel Cancer, Mark Flannagan, said: “Bowel cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, especially when it’s caught early, and screening helps us to do exactly that. So such low initial take up rates for the new bowel scope screening are very worrying, as these show that people are even less willing to participate than with the current faecal occult blood test (FOBT) screening test.


Screening is vital.  It saves lives as it can pick up cancer even before you have symptoms. The earlier cancer is detected the easier it is to treat and the higher the chance of survival.


More needs to be done to promote the benefits of the test if we are to see far greater numbers across the whole country taking up their invitation by the time the programme is fully rolled out by the end of 2018.”


The NHS Bowel Scope Screening Programme offers a one-off test to 55-year-olds that involves a specially trained nurse or doctor using a flexible tube, with a tiny camera on the end, to look inside the large bowel. The test helps prevent bowel cancer by finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps. It can also detect cancer that has already started to develop, before symptoms are noticed and when it’s easier to treat.


The screening programme is being phased in across England and is due to be fully rolled out by 2018. It will run alongside and enhance the current bowel cancer screening programme which sends a DIY faecal occult blood testing kit (FOBt) every two years to people aged 60 to 74 in England. This test looks for hidden blood in stool samples, a possible sign of cancer.


For the report, researchers looked at how many of the 21,000 people in six pilot areas of England, who were sent an appointment, didn’t go ahead with the new test.


It is early days for the new bowel scope programme and there hasn’t been a publicity campaign about it yet so it is not as familiar to people as breast-screening mammograms or cervical-screening smear tests.


Studies have indicated that bowel scope screening could reduce bowel cancer cases by up to 33 per cent and deaths by up to 43 per cent among those who took the test.


You can find out more about bowel cancer screening and what’s available in your area by visiting our screening information pages.