NHS BCSP responds to allegations made in The Lancet Oncology

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NHS BCSP responds to allegations made in The Lancet Oncology that cases of bowel cancer may be missed because of the cut off level used for the test

18th May, 2011

Professor Julietta Patnick, CBE, Director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, has issued the following statement in reply to the research published in The Lancet Oncology:

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms, which is when treatment is more likely to be effective. Currently, the Programme offers bowel screening every two years for all people aged between 60 and 74 years old using the guaiac Faecal Occult Blood test (FOBt). This test gives a positive or negative result for the possible presence of blood in the stool sample. A positive test result will lead to further investigation, usually a colonoscopy. The new study looked at results obtained using a different type of FOBt test known as immunochemical FOBt (iFOBt). Unlike the guaiac test, iFOBt only identifies blood from the bowel and can quantify the amount of blood found in the sample.

The immunochemical FOBt is not currently used in the English Bowel Cancer Screening Programme but, as stated in Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer, the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes will be "looking at how the more accurate and easier to use iFOBt can be introduced into the programme potentially to increase uptake and to provide more accurate results." All new evidence is reviewed by the independent Advisory Committee on Bowel Cancer Screening, which makes recommendations to the Programme.

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