Bowel cancer can be prevented. The small growths, called polyps, on the bowel wall, if left untreated may
A one-off bowel screening test reduces the risk of developing bowel
cancer by more than one third and could save thousands of lives,
according to a study published in The Lancet
‘The bowel scope which examines the lower part of the large bowel - prevented more than half of potential bowel cancers from developing in that area and two thirds of deaths were avoided.’
The researchers, funded through a Medical Research Council (MRC)
and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) partnership and
Cancer Research UK, found that the test - which examines the lower part
of the large bowel - prevented more than half of potential bowel cancers
from developing in that area and two thirds of deaths were avoided.
Bowel scope uses a tiny camera attached to a thin flexible tube
to examine a specific part of the bowel but was still found to prevent
35% of bowel cancers overall and to prevent 40% of
The team followed more than 170,000 people for 17 years on
average and more than 40,000 had the bowel scope test. It is the longest
study ever done on the effectiveness of the test.
Bowel scope can stop cancer before it starts, by finding and removing polyps on the bowel wall.
Professor Wendy Atkin, Cancer Research UK's bowel screening
expert and lead author based at Imperial College London, said: "We know
the bowel scope test has huge benefits for older people. Although no
screening test is perfect, this study shows that bowel scope is
effective in reducing cancer deaths for at least 17 years.
"Bowel cancer can be prevented. And the bowel scope screening
test is a great way to reduce the number of people diagnosed with the
disease so it's vital that no one misses out on the opportunity to get
Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK's head of health information
said: "Like other types of screening, bowel scope is meant for people
without symptoms. It's a great way to help reduce the number of people
developing or dying from bowel cancer, but it can't pick up everything.
"So it's still important to take part in the rest of the bowel
screening program and not ignore the home testing kits when they
arrive. And whatever your screening history tell your doctor if you
notice any unusual or lasting changes such as blood in your poo or a
change in bowel habit."
The government estimates that the bowel scope test will take at
least another three years before it will be offered to everyone eligible
across England. The test is offered to people at age 55.
Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet
committed to introducing this test as part of their own bowel screening
Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK's director of policy, said:
"In England the government has committed to rolling out this test but
there is a shortage of trained staff to carry it out. A training scheme
is underway but it's important that there are enough newly trained
specialists to meet the growing demand for these life-saving tests."