A new test for bowel cancer could reduce the number of patients referred for endoscopy, says a new research. The test called as fecal immunochemical test (FIT) looks for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of bowel cancer.
According to the study, if doctors used the test, they could reduce the number of patients needing to go to hospital for an endoscopy by almost a third. Endoscopy is a procedure where a thin tube is used to examine the bowel.
Studies have shown that between 60% and 80% of patients referred to hospital for endoscopy turn out not to have a serious bowel disease, including bowel cancer.
"Our study found that using a test called FIT, which detects the presence of haemoglobin in the patient's faeces, alongside the usual diagnostic work done by GPs could rule out nearly a third of patients from requiring an endoscopy to check for (serious bowel disease)."
The study looked at results for 810 patients from 266 GP practices in the Netherlands. Out of the 810 patients referred for an endoscopy, 669 were found to have no serious bowel disease.
The researchers found that about 30% of these patients could have been prevented from having an endoscopy. However, the researchers did point out that there was a small risk some patients with bowel cancer could be missed by using FIT.
The authors said careful monitoring for persistent symptoms would be needed, and may result in a delay in diagnosis for some patients. The FIT test is being rolled out in the UK over the next few years and is much simpler than the current fecal occult blood (Fob) test.The Fob test involves collecting six small samples of feces over a few days and posting them to a screening center.
The FIT test is much easier to use, requiring just one sample that is collected with a brush and then put into a small tube of liquid. It is also more accurate and experts hope it will lead to more cases of bowel cancer being detected.
Dr Anne Mackie, director of programmes for the UK National Screening Committee, managed by Public Health England, said, "The new FIT test, which will be rolled out in the English Bowel Cancer Screening Programme over the next few years, will make it easier for people to get checked for risk of bowel cancer - as early diagnosis and treatment can save lives.
"PHE has already started looking into the logistics of introducing FIT and is keen to see this new improved kit fully available as soon as possible."
The study is published in the journal BMC Medicine.