In England, bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer. An estimated 38,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
In 2007, about 17,600 cases of bowel cancer were diagnosed in women, making it the second most common cancer in women after breast cancer. There were about 21,000 cases in men, making it the third most common cancer after prostate and lung cancer.
Approximately 80% of bowel cancer cases develop in people who are 60 or over. Two-thirds of bowel cancers develop in the colon, with the remaining third developing in the rectum.
In England, an estimated 16,000 people die from bowel cancer each year.
What is screening for bowel cancer?
Screening is designed to look for evidence of disease in healthy individuals with no known symptoms. The aim is to detect disease at an early stage when there is a better chance of successful treatment. Screening for bowel cancer is not a diagnostic test. Abnormal results may show that the person is at risk of disease.
How is screening done?
The first step is a faecal occult blood test (FOBt) that people can complete at home and return by post. Any abnormal results will then be followed up with an appointment at a screening centre where the patient will be assessed by a specialist screening practitioner for a possible colonoscopy.
Who is the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme open to?
• Men and women aged 60 to 69 years. People aged 70 years or over can request screening
• Screening is offered every two years to the eligible population
Where can I get more information?
The NHS bowel cancer screening programme website has an information leaflet about bowel cancer screening, available in a variety of languages. If you receive a testing kit, you can find instructions here: http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/bowel/publications/kit-instructions.html