NHS urges people to use bowel cancer home testing kit: ‘Don’t put it off’

 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The NHS is urging millions of people in England who have been sent a home testing kit for bowel cancer to use it and return it.

Every month, half a million free Faecal Immunichemical Test kits (FIT) are posted out to those who are eligible to use in the privacy of their own homes.

The kits can detect early signs of bowel cancer. However, data shows that a third of people are not returning their test kits.

The health service hopes their new campaign, which has launched today (Thursday 23 February) across TV, radio, video on demand and social media, will increase the uptake of the home testing kit.

The campaign features an advert, which first aired on morning TV, showing a man dancing around his house with a loo roll before completing the test. It concludes with the message: “Put it by the loo. Don’t put it off.”

It comes after the late Dame Deborah James’ husband Sebastian Bowen urged people to get involved in the programme earlier this week.

James died in June of bowel cancer at the age of 40. She campaigned for people to check for bowel cancer and set up a fundraiser called Bowel Babe that raised £7 million for Cancer Research UK.

Bowen told The Sun: “I know Deborah would be telling anyone that would listen: ‘Check your poo’.”

The FIT kit works by detecting small amounts of blood in poo that would not be visible to people.

It is quicker to use compared to the previous bowel cancer screening home testing kit. It involves collecting a tiny sample of poo using the plastic stick provided and putting it into the sample bottle.

People can then send it to the NHS free of charge to be tested in a laboratory.

Anyone aged between 60 to 74 years old who is registered with a GP practice and lives in England automatically receives a FIT kit every two years.

The NHS plans to lower the age of people eligible to receive the kits to 50 by 2025. The test kits are also being sent to 56-year-olds and is currently being rolled out to 58-year-olds.

Steve Russell, the NHS director of vaccinations and screening, said: “Screening is one of the best ways to diagnose bowel cancer early, or in some cases prevent it from developing in the first place, so we want more people to do it; and stop this disease in its tracks.

“If you’re sent the kit, help yourself by remembering to complete it. Put it by the loo. Don’t put it off.

“If you haven’t taken a test, but are experiencing bowel cancer symptoms, such as blood in your poo or severe stomach pain, no matter your age, you should speak to your GP as soon as possible.”

According to the NHS, bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer.

Data shows nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK, with more than 16,500 deaths each year. The chances of surviving the cancer are significantly higher when it’s found at an early stage.