Life-saving bowel cancer testing kits to drop onto hundreds of thousands of London doormats

The NHS FIT bowel cancer testing kit (NHS London)
The NHS FIT bowel cancer testing kit (NHS London)

Bowel cancer testing kits will be delivered to the homes of hundreds of thousands of Londoners to increase detection of the disease at an earlier stage, the NHS has announced.

More than 900,000 people in the capital will receive the free NHS Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) in the post as part of efforts to “stop cancer in its tracks” before it spreads.

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, but the latest data shows that almost a third of Londoners who were sent an NHS bowel cancer screening kit last year did not go on to complete it. The disease is nine times more likely to be successfully treated if it is caught at an earlier stage.

Anyone aged between 56 and 74 who lives in London will be sent a kit in the post automatically every two years if they are registered with a GP.

The test involves taking a small faecal sample and can be performed in the bathroom using step-by-step instructions on the box. It works by picking up small traces of blood in the faeces which may not be visible to the human eye.

If an abnormality is found in the sample, patients will be invited for further tests at a hospital or clinic.

The NHS FIT bowel cancer testing kit (NHS London)
The NHS FIT bowel cancer testing kit (NHS London)

Symptoms of bowel cancer include persistent and unexplained changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss and extreme tiredness.

The FIT test can also non-cancerous growths called polyps, which can develop into cancer. These are usually removed by surgery to lower the risk of bowel cancer.

Dr Chris Streather, medical director at NHS London, 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.”

Tv and film director Dick Carruthers, 56, received the FIT kit at his home in Camden in June 2022. Shortly after returning his sample, he was contacted by the colonoscopy department at University College London hospital and asked to come in for further tests.

He was eventually diagnosed with bowel cancer and went on to have surgery to remove a stage 3 cancerous tumour.

Mr Carruthers told the Standard: “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.”