New method to improve detection of bowel cancer to be introduced across Lanarkshire

NHS Lanarkshire has introduced the new test following a successful trial
NHS Lanarkshire has introduced the new test following a successful trial

A new method to improve detection of bowel cancer and avoid unnecessary medical checks is being introduced by NHS Lanarkshire.

This follows a successful pilot of the testing kit - quantitative FIT (qFIT) - in a small number of GP practices.

The test is designed specifically for people who have possible symptoms of bowel cancer, such as bleeding, altered bowel habits or pain in the tummy.

Public health consultant Dr Jennifer Darnborough said: “qFIT will help us target people most likely to have something seriously wrong for investigation and provide reassurance to others.

“At the moment, if someone goes to their GP with bowel symptoms, they are usually sent for a colonoscopy, commonly known as a scope.

“qFIT has been shown to accurately predict which patients are most and least at risk by looking for hidden blood in their motions.

“Patients with lots of hidden blood can be fast-tracked to have a scope and those with little or no blood may be able to avoid a scope altogether.

“GPs now have a supply of the new test kits. If a patient complains of worrying bowel symptoms, they will be given a kit to take home where they can do the test in private and then send it away for processing.

“It’s very important we do everything we can to identify bowel cancer early. It is Scotland’s third most common cancer, but if we find it early enough there’s more than a 90 per cent chance of successful treatment.”

Martin Downey, colorectal surgeon at Wishaw General, added: “Several thousand patients a year are referred for investigation of bowel symptoms and often automatically have a scope. However, only a small proportion of these patients turn out to have serious disease.

“Bowel symptoms often settle on their own, or can be explained by less serious causes like piles and irritable bowel syndrome.

“Adding in the qFIT test allows us to quickly work out who needs further investigations and who does not.”