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Janie asked...

Are there any tests for bowel cancer screening?

Tags: Cancer

Are there any tests I can buy for bowel cancer screening as I am too young for the NHS screening plan.

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The answer

Eighty per cent of bowel cancers are found in those over 60 years of  age so this is why the NHS bowel screening programme has first been offered to those aged 60-69. In 2014 this should be extended to age 74 but those over 70 can currently ring to request NHS screening if they wish. It is known that even early bowel cancers can bleed so looking for tiny traces of blood in the stool sample is a useful screening test. There are a number of other benign causes of blood in the stools e.g. piles or diverticular disease so a positive test does not necessarily mean you have a bowel cancer. The NHS sends out a test kit which can detect blood in the stool to those in the current screening age group. This is then sent back by the individual and if the test shows blood further bowel testing is then recommended. Those under the age of 60 are at less risk unless they have a strong family history of bowel cancer in which case they would normally be recommended to have interval colonoscopy to look for bowel polyps.  For those under 60 without any major risk factors or family history who wish screening it is possible to buy stool blood detection kits - a number of private companies offer these now - for example 'Boots' or other brand names such as 'self sure' or 'nova bowel health test'.  It is important to seek further medical advice if you have a positive result or if you have any other symptoms such as a change in bowel habit.

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