However, if diagnosed early, more than 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully and the five year survival rates for bowel cancer have doubled over the last 40 years.
Screening aims to select people with no symptoms who are most at risk of developing bowel disease.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland people over the age of 60 are invited to take part in bowel screening. In Scotland, screening starts from age 50.
The screening programmes have used the guaiac based Faecal Occult Blood Test (gFOBt), to look for hidden blood in faeces. The test is sent to the participant’s home and requires them to smear two small samples of poo, using the cardboard sticks provided, onto the test card. This needs to be done three times over a two week period (21 days in Northern Ireland and Scotland), before sending the card back to the screening centre.
However, advances in diagnostic technology will greatly improve the screening programmes over the coming years.
Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison announced in June 2016, that gFOBt will be replaced by the faecal immunochemical test (FIT) due to the many advantages that it brings. In Scotland gFOBT has already been replaced by FIT and the first invites for screening using the new FIT test were sent out on 20 November 2017.