The bowel screening programme screens people from the areas of Gateshead, Sunderland and South Tyneside, using a home test kit, called the faecal immunochemical test (FIT) which replaced the faecal occult blood test (FOBt). This looks for hidden blood in stool samples.
Bowel cancer screening using the home test kit aims to detect cancer at an early stage (in people with no symptoms). It does this using the FIT test which is a simple stool sample test that is completed at home and sent back to the screening hub in the envelope supplied. The test identifies hidden blood in the stool sample that could be caused by a polyp or cancer.
If you are over 74 years old, you will no longer receive an automatic invitation for screening, but can contact us on 0800 7076060 every two years if you wish to take part in the screening programme.
Regular bowel cancer screening using the home test kit has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16%.
If you have any questions about the bowel cancer screening programmes, contact us on 0800 7076060.
Invitations are sent out to all individuals aged between 60 – 74 and 56 year olds, every two years. This invitation tells you about the screening service.
The screening kit
Approximately two weeks after receiving your invitation letter you will receive the FIT test kit. This kit is to be completed at home before being returned in the special envelope. If you need support to complete the kit or have any questions please contact the free phone number 0800 707 6060, or for instructions on completing the kit see the kit instructions.
The FIT test kit is used to identify blood in the bowel motion that can not be seen with the naked eye. Blood in poo can be an early sign of bowel cancer or polyps.
What to do if you have lost or spoilt your kit
If you have lost or spoilt your kit, contact the free phone number 0800 707 6060 to request a replacement kit.
Getting your results
Your results are sent out by post within 2 weeks.
- A normal result means no further tests are needed. You will be invited to take part in screening again in two years. If you will be over 75 you will be able to phone for a test kit in two years.
- If the results come back as abnormal this means you will be invited to an appointment with one of the screening centres’ specialist screening practitioners (nurses). The nurse will discuss your results and possible further tests. This is normally a colonoscopy.
Invitation to assessment clinic
At the assessment clinic there is an opportunity to discuss your results with the specialist screening practitioner (nurse). The specialist screening practitioner will explain the results and discuss further tests that can be offered to identify if an individual has a bowel cancer. The most effective test at this point is a colonoscopy. At the assessment clinic the specialist screening practitioner will explain the colonoscopy and if the individual decides they would like the test the specialist screening practitioner will book an appointment and explain the pre examination bowel preparation.
Preparation for colonoscopy
Bowel preparation is needed before the completion of a colonoscopy as a clean bowel allows the colonoscopist to clearly see the bowel wall and any areas of concern. Bowel preparation is given to the patient to be taken at home before attending the colonoscopy appointment. This involves taking laxatives and following a special diet for a two day period prior to the procedure.
On the day of the colonoscopy the specialist screening practitioner (nurse) meets the patient. The patient has an opportunity to ask any questions. The patient then changes into a gown before going to the endoscopy room. Here the patient meets the colonoscopist before being asked to lie on the bed, on their left hand side. Sedation is available to patients, if required, but not all patients choose to have this. The colonoscopy uses a camera, mounted inside a small tube to look at the inside of the bowel. During the procedure the colonoscopist is able to identify areas of concern, remove tissue samples (biopsies) for analysis. Any samples taken are sent to the pathology laboratory for testing. Following the colonoscopy the specialist screening practitioner (nurse) will explain what happened during the procedure and if any samples were taken for analysis. If the patient has had sedation they would not be able to drive and would need to be accompanied home and supported during the following 24 hours as the sedation can make people drowsy. The morning following colonoscopy the specialist screening practitioner will contact the patient by telephone to answer any questions and arrange a results appointment, if needed.
Results of the colonoscopy
Normal results – No polyp or bowel cancer detected. Patient is informed of this result after the colonoscopy and through a follow up telephone call. The patient is invited to continue with the bowel screening programme in two years by completing a FIT test kit.
Polyps removed – If polyps were removed or tissue samples (biopsies) taken, the patient is invited to attend a results clinic. This is normally the week following colonoscopy and is an opportunity to discuss next steps.
If polyps are found – Further colonoscopies called surveillance colonoscopies can be offered depending on the number and size of polyps removed:
Low risk – invited to complete the FIT test kit in two years
Intermediate risk – repeat colonoscopy in 3 year’s time
High risk – repeat colonoscopy in 1 year’s time
If a cancer is found – If a cancer is found the patient is informed of the cancer and given an opportunity to discuss the next steps. Each patient is treated individually depending on their needs. All treatment options are discussed at the multi disciplinary team meeting.