New at-home test from your GP can help rule out bowel cancer

People who visit their GP with stomach and bowel problems could now be given a new non-invasive test to complete at home to help rule out bowel cancer and potentially avoid a trip to hospital.

From this month the test can now be given to people who visit their GP with problems that could indicate the presence of bowel cancer. This will mean fewer people will need to undergo an endoscopy procedure in hospital as the simple test can help to rule out the presence of bowel
cancer among patients with specific lower abdominal symptoms.

FIT testing (Symptomatic Faecal Immunochemical Testing) is currently available in Dudley but funding from the new Black Country and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (BCWB CCG) has been secured to ensure this can be rolled out for any patients who present with
symptoms including stomach complaints, pain, discomfort or changes in bowel habits.

The FIT test is similar to the bowel screening programme and involves collecting a small poo sample which the person’s GP will send to the labs for testing by Black Country Pathology Service. Patients will be invited to take the test by their GP, and a kit will be supplied so the test can be
done at home.

The test can pick up tiny amounts of blood in poo and a positive FIT test will show that bleeding has occurred somewhere in the bowel. This can be an early sign of bowel cancer, as well as other problems such as stomach ulcers and inflammation in the bowel. The results of the FIT test will
make sure that people who are at high risk of bowel cancer are seen quickly, and that patients with normal test results avoid unnecessary hospital investigations and appointments. Dr Masood Ahmed, Chief Medical Officer for BCWB CCG, said:

“I’m delighted that we are now able to roll out this test across the whole Black Country and West Birmingham. The discreet nature of this at-home test, which avoids a hospital visit for those who don’t need one.

"It should also encourage people to come forward earlier and enable us to either rule out cancer quickly and put their mind to rest or to get treatment started much sooner and improve outcomes.”

Dr Matthew Lewis, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Medical Director at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, added:

“We are really pleased that the Faecal Immunochemical Test will be available for our patients in the Black Country and West Birmingham. GPs will be able to use this test to identify those patients with evidence of bleeding in the gut and will be able to make prompt referrals, where necessary, for further investigations.

"In hospital, the clinical teams will know which patients need to be investigated urgently, based on the result of the FIT. Overall, we expect that patients with significant bowel conditions will be investigated and treated more quickly.”

April is national Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of bowel cancer screening and of recognising the symptoms and seeking help early. Bowel cancer is highly treatable and nearly everyone who is diagnosed at the earliest stage survives, however this drops significantly as the disease develops. 

The main symptoms to look out for are:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy.

Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer. Other health problems can cause similar symptoms. But if you have one or more of these, or if things just don’t feel right, contact your GP.


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