Bowel Cancer Screening

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer and it affects 16000 people in the U.K. every year. Like most other cancers, the earlier bowel cancer is diagnosed, the more likely a patient is to survive. Most colorectal cancers grow slowly from a benign wart-like growth called a polyp however the majority of polyps in the large bowel do not cause any symptoms. The exceptions are large polyps that can cause bleeding or pain. Currently, everyone in England aged between 60 and 75 is invited to participate in the national bowel cancer screening program. This takes the form of testing the stool for the presence of occult blood and proceeding to an examination of the bowel if the former is positive (see colonoscopy). If you are privately insured, you may choose to undergo the colonoscopy in the private sector.

Bowel cancer screening can be offered to people in 2 different categories:

(1) Everybody aged between 60 and 75 who is well and free from symptoms. The objective here is to detect bowel cancer before it presents with symptoms and therefore affords a better prognosis or outcome

(2) People who are at higher risk of getting bowel cancer: such as those with more than one first degree relative with bowel cancer, especially where the age of the relative at the time of diagnosis of cancer is less than 50 years. We also carry out surveillance for patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease and for patients who have had polyps or bowel cancers removed in the past.

At colonoscopy, any polyps seen are removed. This action markedly reduces the chance or likelihood of developing bowel cancer.