Life-saving package drops onto hundreds of thousands of London doormats

Bowel cancer screening kits are being sent to hundreds of thousands of people across London in a drive to save more lives. Nearly half a million eligible people in London are being sent the home testing kits in the next few months, which can detect signs of bowel cancer before people notice anything wrong.

The free NHS bowel cancer screening test is simple to complete and can help prevent bowel cancer or find it at an early stage, when it’s up to nine times more likely to be successfully treated.

Cancer was caught just in time for 56-year-old TV and film director Dick Carruthers, thanks to the bowel cancer screening kit that landed on his doormat.

Dick, who lives in Camden, said: “You know the type of person to completely ignore this sort of test that comes through the post, well that was me. I just didn’t think it applied to me. But coincidentally I was hearing lots on the radio about Deborah James and bowel cancer awareness, and I thought; ok well, better do it!”

After sending off his sample, Dick was called in for a colonoscopy, which led to a cancer diagnosis and subsequent life-saving surgery to remove a stage 3 cancerous tumour.

“I was very surprised I had cancer because I was fit, healthy and had zero symptoms. I wouldn’t have known anything was wrong – until possibly too late – had I not done the simple screening test and sent it back.

“My operation went really well and following three months of chemotherapy and the reversal of my ileostomy, I am in complete remission and adjusting to the new normal.

“I can’t thank the NHS enough for sending the kit, and for all the amazing care I have received since. It’s not melodramatic to say I owe my life to the bowel cancer screening programme.

“My message is simple; if you get sent a bowel cancer screening kit, known as a ‘FIT kit’, do it.”

People in London who have been sent the life-saving home testing kit are being encouraged to use it and return it, as part of a new NHS London campaign that launched this week. The campaign aims to increase uptake of the home testing kit to ensure more people in London are diagnosed with bowel cancer at the earliest stage. This latest drive in London is part of ongoing national efforts to encourage more people to complete and return their kits across England, first launched by the NHS in 2019.

Anyone aged 56 to 74 who lives in London and is registered with a GP practice, is sent a kit in the post automatically, every two years. While many people complete the kit, worryingly, over a third of people in London who were sent the kit did not complete the test and return it last year, which means lots of opportunities to catch and treat the disease early are being missed.

Dr Chris Streather, NHS London’s Medical Director said: “Screening – which you can do in private at home – is one of the best ways to diagnose bowel cancer early, or in some cases prevent it from developing in the first place, so we need more people in London to do the test and return their kits; and stop cancer in its tracks.

“As one of the most common cancers in the UK, it is vital that more people in London   complete and return their bowel cancer screening kits. If you’re sent the kit, join the millions completing theirs this year.”

As part of a campaign launching in the capital today, NHS chiefs are urging people not to be “prudish about poo”, with people often reluctant to talk about it.

People concerned that they may have missed their invitation or have lost or thrown away their kit can call the free bowel cancer screening helpline for advice on 0800 707 60 60. Information on bowel cancer and the screening programme can be found at:

To set up an interview with Dick Carruthers, please call 07748 103992. He is available for pre-recorded interviews tomorrow (Thursday 19 Oct) and live broadcast interviews on Friday. 

Notes to editors

  • Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. [1] Yet the latest data showed that almost a third of people who were sent an NHS bowel cancer screening kit in England last year did not go on to complete it. [2]
  • The NHS in London is sending out 493,680 kits from October 2023 to March 2024
  • If you’re aged 60 (56 in London) to 74 (lowering to 50 by 2025), live in England and are registered with a GP practice, you’ll automatically be sent a free home testing kit in the post, every two years.
  • The NHS Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kit is simple to complete and can be done in your own bathroom using the step-by-step instructions on the box.
  • Maybe you think it’s messy or awkward, but the truth is, taking a tiny sample is simple. A few easy steps is all it takes.
  • You only need to collect one tiny sample of poo using the plastic stick provided, pop it in the sample bottle and post it for free, to be tested.
  • If something is found, you will be invited for further tests, usually at a hospital.
  • The test works by checking for tiny traces of blood, which may not be visible to the naked eye.
  • Blood in your poo is one of the signs of bowel cancer, but does not always mean cancer. Instead, it could be a sign of piles or polyps (growths in the bowel). Polyps are not cancer but could develop into cancer over time.
  • Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. Almost 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.
  • Around 268,000 people living in the UK today have been diagnosed with bowel cancer.
  • More than nine out of ten new cases (94%) are diagnosed in people over the age of 50. But bowel cancer can affect anyone of any age. More than 2,600 new cases are diagnosed in people under the age of 50 every year.
  • 1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime.
  • In 2019 the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme replaced the guaiac testing kit with a Faecal Immunochemical Test (sometimes called a ‘FIT kit’), which is quicker for people to complete. In April 2021, the programme commenced a further expansion of the eligible invitation age to include people aged 50-74 by 2025.

Symptoms of bowel cancer may include:

  • changes in your poo, such as having softer poo, diarrhoea or constipation that is not usual for you
  • needing to poo more or less often than usual for you
  • blood in your poo, which may look red or black
  • bleeding from your bottom
  • often feeling like you need to poo, even if you’ve just been to the toilet
  • tummy pain
  • bloating
  • losing weight without trying
  • feeling very tired for no reason