Why it is important to test for bowel cancer

Why it is important to test for bowel cancer

February 16, 2018

Bowel cancer is the UK’s third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths. Most people who get bowel cancer are aged over 60 and the NHS invites people to take easy tests to help prevent it.

Every year thousands of residents in Ealing aged between 55 and 74 are invited to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, through one of two types of quick and easy preventative test:

  • Postal testing kits for those aged 60 to 74. These kits, which are sent every two years, look for any signs of blood and possible bowel cancer in your stool. If your test is positive, then you will be invited to a clinic assessment at St Mark’s Hospital, Harrow
  • Bowel Scope screening for those aged 55 to 59. This is a quick, one-off procedure which looks for any signs of polyps. By detecting and removing polyps before they can become cancerous, it can reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer by half.

Margaret Vance, nurse consultant at St Mark’s Hospital, explained why the tests are important when you reach aged 55 or over. She said: “Most bowel cancers develop from small fleshy nodules called polyps. By offering you a bowel screening at age 55 we can look inside the bowel in a quick test to see if you have a polyp. And if you do, we can remove it. It’s quick and painless and reduces your chance of getting bowel cancer.”

You can hear more from Margaret in the video above.

More than 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, 16,000 of whom die from it. Also known as colorectal cancer, it refers to tumours in the part of your gut called the large intestine or large bowel.

Carl, 55, was sent an invitation to take part in Bowel Scope Screening at St Mark’s Hospital. He said: “The procedure probably saved my life.”

He added: “The dedicated and professional staff were all fantastic and clearly have a passion for helping others.”

Patricia also had some screening done, which led to two polyps being removed. She was initially nervous and thought she would be embarrassed – but her experience was very positive.

She said: “It was over so quickly, I returned back to work. Effectively, I had the procedure in my lunch break.”

To find out more, visit or call the national freephone number 0800 707 60 60.


Images from Cancer Research UK / Wikimedia Commons and St Mark’s Hospital