As a result of new scientific evidence, the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme has changed from Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (Flexi-sig) test to the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). This test can detect tiny amounts of blood, not visible to the naked eye, in your stool (poo) which may be an early sign of pre-cancerous growths (polyps) or bowel cancers. The FIT is being introduced over the next two years from June 2018 and will enable HSC to test a far wider section of the population. The test is simple to collect at home and is already used successfully in screening programmes worldwide.
Bowel cancer screening involves having tests to check if you have or are at risk of developing bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer screening is offered to men and women aged 60 to 70 in the Bailiwick of Guernsey to help find bowel cancer early when it can often be treated successfully. You’re 14 times more likely to survive bowel cancer if it’s found early.
Why it’s offered and who is at risk?
Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in Guernsey. It affects both men and women and it is more common in people over 50 years of age, especially men. About 1 in 20 people will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime.
Screening can help detect bowel cancer at an early stage, when it’s easier to treat successfully. It can also be used to help check for and remove small growths in the bowel called polyps, which can turn into cancer over time if left untreated.
Some risk factors are unavoidable, such as age, sex or family history. However, as well as doing your bowel cancer screening test you can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer by:
- Eating a healthy diet containing wholegrains like wholegrain bread and cereals, beans, pulses and plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Keeping active and sitting less
- Drinking less alcohol or none at all
- Stopping smoking
- Telling your GP if you’ve any worries about your bowel habits
Who’ll be screened?
In the Bailiwick of Guernsey, people aged 60 to 70 will be invited for bowel cancer screening every 2 years.
If you’re 71 or over, you can still take a bowel cancer screening test. However, you’ll need to contact the screening programme to request a test kit.
What does bowel cancer screening involve?
Bowel cancer screening simply involves collecting a stool sample at home and sending a tiny sample of it to the hospital. A machine then looks for hidden blood in your poo sample.
The aim of the test is to find:
- Bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms.
- Other changes in the bowel, such as pre-cancerous growths called ‘polyps’.
Most bowel polyps can be removed easily, which can prevent cancer from developing.
Your screening invitation
If you’re eligible, the bowel cancer screening programme will send you a free test kit to your home address. This is the address you used to register with your GP.
If you’ve moved house, please inform the screening programme as soon as possible (even if you have told your GP) so that you don’t miss your screening invitation.
Benefits and risks
As with any test, there are benefits and risks involved in bowel cancer screening. It’s important that you’re aware of these before you accept a screening invitation.
It is easy and free to take part. The screening sample can be collected in the privacy of your own home. The test can help to find:
- bowel cancer early, even if you don’t have symptoms — 9 out of 10 people survive bowel cancer if it’s found and treated early
- changes in the bowel — such as non-cancerous growths called polyps
Most polyps can be removed and often prevent future cancers from developing.
The bowel cancer screening test will pick up most cases of polyps or bowel cancer but can’t find them all. The test looks for hidden blood in your poo and not all polyps and cancers bleed or they may just bleed intermittently. Changes can also happen between screening tests.
This means cancer can sometimes be missed, so it’s important that you:
- Repeat the screening test every 2 years.
- Never ignore symptoms that could indicate bowel cancer – like blood in your poo (stool), a change in bowel habits, abdominal (tummy) pain or unexplained weight loss or tiredness.
- If you develop any of these symptoms, please contact your GP as soon as possible.
Taking the bowel cancer screening test
Collecting the sample at home is quick and easy. Once collected you send the sample to the laboratory for analysis using the prepaid return envelope as soon as possible.
Instructions on how to use the collection kit can be accessed via: https://www.gov.gg/screening
Replacement FIT kits
If you’ve made a mistake, misplaced or didn’t receive your screening kit, you can request a replacement test kit by contacting the bowel cancer screening programme.
After the test
Your result should be posted to you and to your GP within 10 working days of sending off your kit.
Most people will have a negative result so will be told that they don’t need any further investigation. If this happens you’ll be sent another test in 2 years’ time.
If your test result is positive (needs further investigation), you will be offered an appointment with the specialist nurse who will explain the result. This does not necessarily mean you have bowel cancer.
If your test is void (something was unsatisfactory with the test), you may be asked to repeat the test and you will be sent a replacement kit.
If you don’t receive your results letter, or have questions about your results, contact the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.
It is likely that at your appointment with the specialist nurse, you will be offered a colonoscopy. If you’re invited for a colonoscopy, you’ll receive information about the benefits and risks of the procedure before your appointment so you can think of questions to ask the nurse at your appointment. You are welcome to bring a partner or friend with you.
Very occasionally colonoscopy is inappropriate for some people. In this situation you may be offered an alternative investigation.
A colonoscopy is an examination of the bowel using a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end. It is performed by a consultant in hospital and is the most effective way of looking for the cause of your bleeding (positive FIT).
A colonoscopy takes about half an hour and will require a day patient unit appointment. You may be sedated for this but you shouldn’t need to stay in hospital for more than a few hours.
Before coming to the hospital you’ll need to empty your bowel. You’ll be given clear instructions about how to do this before your appointment.
If you wish to proceed, and are fit to do so, you will then be offered a date and time for the colonoscopy examination to be carried out by a consultant at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital.
You may need to arrange for someone to take you home after your colonoscopy and stay with you. If you are given a sedative, this may make you drowsy for several hours and you will be not to be allowed to drive, make important decisions or sign anything until 24 hours after your colonoscopy.
After your colonoscopy, the consultant will tell you the results and explain any findings to you before you leave.
For more information on colonoscopy please read our Colonoscopy leaflet
If you’ve any questions about the bowel cancer screening test or would like to leave feedback about the bowel cancer screening programme, contact the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme by:
- Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone – 707740 (open Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm)
- Post – Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, Princess Elizabeth Hospital, Le Vauquiedor, St Martin, Guernsey, GY4 6UU.
Bowel cancer screening leaflet and test instructions
The Bowel Cancer Screening Programme has produced leaflets explaining what you need to know about the bowel cancer screening test including instructions explaining how to complete the test.
- Bowel cancer screening leaflet
- Colonoscopy leaflet
- Bowel cancer screening test instructions
- Bowel cancer screening programme FAQs