Bowel Cancer Screening
The following information is about the current NHS bowel screening programmes.
If you do not qualify for screening, and would like to access these screening tests privately, then I can arrange that for you.
NHS Screening for bowel cancer
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. If it’s detected at an early stage, before symptoms appear, it’s easier to treat and there’s a better chance of surviving it.
To detect cases of bowel cancer sooner, the NHS offers two types of bowel cancer screening to adults registered with a GP in England:
- All men and women aged 60-74 are invited to carry out an FOB (faecal occult blood) test at home. They’re sent the home test kit every two years through the post, until they reach the age of 74. The FOB test checks for the presence of blood in a stool sample, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer. If you are 75 or over, you can ask for this test by calling the freephone helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
An additional one-off test called bowel scope screening is gradually being introduced in England. This is offered to men and women at the age of 55. As of March 2015, about two thirds of screening centres were beginning to offer this test to 55 year olds. It involves a doctor or nurse using a thin flexible instrument to look inside the lower part of the bowel and remove any small growths, called polyps, that could eventually turn into cancer.
Taking part in bowel cancer screening reduces your chances of dying from bowel cancer, and removing polyps in bowel scope screening can prevent cancer. However, all screening involves a balance of potential harms, as well as benefits. It’s up to you to decide if you want to have it.
If you would like more information please email me using the contact form below.
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Private Bowel Cancer Screening
If you do not qualify for screening on the NHS programme, and are worried about bowel cancer, then you can have the screening tests done privately through this site.
Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) Testing
Polyps and bowel cancers sometimes bleed, and the faecal occult blood (FOB) test works by detecting tiny amounts of blood which cannot normally be seen in bowel motions. ‘Occult’ means hidden. The FOB test does not diagnose bowel cancer, but the results will indicate whether further investigation (usually a colonoscopy) is needed.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (Bowel Scope)
Bowel scope screening is an examination called ‘flexible sigmoidoscopy” which looks inside the lower bowel. The aim is to find any small growths called ‘polyps’, which may develop into bowel cancer if left untreated.
Colonoscopy is a procedure in which a trained specialist uses a long, flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, called a colonoscope or scope, to look inside your rectum and colon. Colonoscopy can show irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers, polyps, and cancer.
Computed tomography, more commonly known as a CT or CAT scan, is a diagnostic medical test that, like traditional x-rays, produces multiple images or pictures of the inside of the body.
The cross-sectional images generated during a CT scan can be reformatted in multiple planes, and can even generate three-dimensional images. These images can be viewed on a computer monitor, printed on film or transferred to a CD or DVD.
CT images of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels typically provide greater detail than traditional x-rays, particularly of soft tissues and blood vessels.
CT colonography, also known as virtual colonoscopy, uses low dose radiation CT scanning to obtain an interior view of the colon (the large intestine) that is otherwise only seen with a more invasive procedure where an endoscope is inserted into the rectum and passed through the entire colon.
Other Bowel Screening Tests
There are also blood tests available for other bowel problems.
Coeliac disease is a common digestive condition where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten.
Eating foods containing gluten can trigger a range of symptoms, such as:
- diarrhoea, which may smell particularly unpleasant
- bloating and flatulence (passing wind)
- abdominal pain
- weight loss
- feeling tired all the time as a result of malnutrition (not getting enough nutrients from food)
- children not growing at the expected rate
Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
It can be diagnosed on a blood sample testing for antibodies usually present in the bloodstream of people with coeliac disease.
You should not be avoiding gluten in your diet when the blood test is done as this could lead to an inaccurate result.
If coeliac disease antibodies are found in your blood, you should be referred for a biopsy of your gut.
However, it is sometimes possible to have coeliac disease and not have these antibodies in your blood.
If you continue to have coeliac disease-like symptoms despite having a negative blood test, it still may be recommend that you have a biopsy.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease covers Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis which are long-term conditions that cause inflammation of the lining of the digestive system.
Inflammation can affect any part of the digestive system, from the mouth to the back passage. Common symptoms can include:
- abdominal pain
- fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- unintended weight loss
- blood and mucus in your faeces (stools)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease can be diagnosed using a special stool test, or by having a colonoscopy. Both of these can be arranged for you privately here.