The Bowel Cancer Screening Programme(BSCP) is the largest health prevention programme in gastroenterology and has been hugely successful in screening patients aged between 50 and 75. There are slight differences between England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland with the English programme currently using faecal occult blood (FOB) test samples for the initial screening test in patients aged 60–75 and a one-off flexible sigmoidoscopy for patients aged 55 years. In Scotland, the FOB test initial screen followed by a colonoscopy is the method used for screening in all patients aged 50–75. The programme has been highly successful at detecting pre-malignant polyps which are removed by colonoscopy. In addition, the colorectal cancers detected are found at a much earlier stage and have a successful treatment rate of 75–96%.
Recent announcements from the Department of Health are developing an updated faecal stool sampling method (faecal immunochemical test or FIT) for 50–59 year olds. This is an easier test to use and has been shown both to improve acceptance in the screening population and also increase detection of complex polyps and early colorectal cancers. It will require a major expansion of colonoscopy capacity and plans are being drawn up to meet this exciting new development.
Further patient information is available on the Bowel Cancer UK website which also has useful updates from the screening programme.