A recent news item in the Oxford Times reports that the British National Health Service sent out free bowel cancer home tests to over 30,000 residents of Oxfordshire. The home test kits are issued every two years to individuals 60-75 in England in the hope that by simplifying the screening process, more cases will be diagnosed early enough to make a significant difference in the treatment process.
As the NHS states on their website, “Bowel cancer can be present for a long time before any symptoms appear. If bowel cancer is detected before symptoms appear, it is easier to treat and there is a better chance of surviving the disease.” Despite this, less than two-thirds of the residents targeted in Oxfordshire have returned samples to be tested. One resident pointed out in an interview that he had ignored the home test at first because it struck him as unpleasant. Only after the NHS reminder came through the mail did he proceed with the home screening and discover he did, in fact, have bowel cancer.
Literature from the NHS reveals that bowel cancer, as the third most common cancer, is the second leading cause of death by cancer. With both men and women at risk and one in 20 people developing bowel cancer in their lifetime, the Fecal Occult Blood Test is one of the best ways to detect the cancer before symptoms are noticed.