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Bowel cancer screening is important because it can find bowel cancers| when they are small, before they cause symptoms|.
The screening can also detect polyps, which are non-cancerous (benign) growths that may develop into cancer over time. Polyps can easily be removed, which reduces the risk of bowel cancer developing.
These bowel screening programmes aim to find bowel cancer at a very early stage, when it has the best chance of being cured.
Screening isn’t appropriate for you if you:
The faecal occult blood (FOB) test| is the first stage of bowel screening.
The NHS in England is planning to introduce bowel screening using flexible sigmoidoscopy for all men and women when they reach the age of 55.
This will be called bowelscope screening. Research has shown that a one-off flexible sigmoidoscopy can help to detect bowel polyps and cancers at a very early stage and gives a lasting benefit.
This test will be offered alongside the existing FOB test used in the current bowel cancer screening programme. The FOB test will continue from the age of 60, whether a flexible sigmoidoscopy has been done or not.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a way of looking inside the bowel using a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope. The endoscope has a tiny light and a camera on the end and allows the nurse or doctor to see the rectum and lower end of the colon (sigmoid colon).
The details of the new screening programme are still being worked out, but it’s hoped that it will be available throughout England by 2016.
Content last reviewed: 1 January 2013
Next planned review: 2015
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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