NHS London has launched a lifesaving campaign this summer to encourage more people to do their free NHS bowel cancer screening home test, as the capital becomes one of the first regions to offer a FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) kit to 58-year-olds which could see more cancer cases caught earlier every year.
The campaign, “Your next poo could save your life”, urges people who have been sent a free bowel cancer screening kit to use it, as an estimated 100,000 additional people aged 58 become eligible for the screening test in London.
The FIT kit is done conveniently at home by collecting a stool sample with a stick before placing the stick in a small tube and sending it off for tests. The test can detect blood which could be a sign of bowel cancer ‒ even in people with no symptoms – and determines if further tests are required.
National figures show that around 2% of people who use the kit will require further testing. Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer which can be easier to treat if found early.
The NHS is now expanding its bowel cancer screening programme to 58-year-olds who if and when eligible, will receive a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) bowel cancer home testing kit, to increase early detection of the disease.
Cancer was caught early for Simon Clarke, 67, from Hornsey, north London, thanks to bowel cancer screening.
Simon was investigated after his bowel cancer screening test and, in November 2021, polyps – little growths – were removed from his bowel.
“I wasn’t particularly worried. I’ve always had the attitude it wouldn’t be me that gets ill.
“But when they analysed the polyps, cancer was in one of them. They caught it as a very minor tumour and it hadn’t spread. Without the screening I wouldn’t have known it was there.
“I’d say to other people: use the bowel cancer screening kit when you’re sent it, because if it catches something early like it did with me, it could save your life.”
Sekyi Armah-Tetteh, 61, from Bromley, said:
“I was sent a bowel cancer screening kit when I had just turned 60. When the box came, I opened it with hesitation. Getting a sample of poo? This is not a pleasant thing to do. I kept saying to myself ‘I will do it tomorrow’.
“Then I got a reminder, and I thought I should be brave. If anything is wrong, it is better to arrest it before it gets worse.
“I sent the kit back and I got the all clear like most people. If I had known that at the time, I would have done it straightaway.
“If you get a bowel cancer screening kit, please use it straightaway. It isn’t anything scary.”
London Director of Public Health, Professor Kevin Fenton said:
“Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers. Anyone can get it. In the UK, 43,000 people are diagnosed with it and over 16,500 people die from it each year – more than 45 a day.
“Screening – which you do in private at home – can help prevent bowel cancer or find it at an early stage when it’s easier to treat. Those who complete bowel cancer screening are 25% less likely to die of bowel cancer.
“That’s why the NHS sends out free bowel cancer screening kits to use at home. They are for people with no symptoms and most people do not require any further investigations. If you are sent a kit, please use it.”
The campaign “Your next poo could save your life” aims to increase uptake of bowel cancer screening across London. It is particularly focusing on those who are less likely to do the test: men, people sent the bowel screening kit for the first time, people in deprived areas, people from some ethnic and faith communities, and people with a learning disability.
As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the health service will be lowering the age of those eligible for home-testing kits to all people aged 50 and above by 2025 and this is the next phase in the programme’s expansion.
London’s campaign ‘Your next poo could save your life’ uses street and community advertising, an animation in multiple languages, radio ads, social media and focused community engagement in London to get the message out. For more information, videos, case studies and campaign resources, please visit: NHS London Bowel Cancer Screening – Healthy London Partnership