Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, affecting around 34,000 people a year. All men and women aged 60 – 75 will be automatically offered a bowel cancer screening test every two years. If bowel cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage, there is a very good chance that the cancer can be cured.
Bowel cancer screening tests can reduce the risk of bowel cancer developing by finding polyps on the inner lining of the bowel. Polyps develop when cells grow too quickly and form a clump known as a bowel polyp or an adenoma. These are usually benign (non-cancerous) but some may contain cancer cells. They may develop into cancer over a number of years. Polyps found during screening can easily be removed.
Research shows that screening with the current test lowers the risk of dying from bowel cancer by around 16%. The bowel cancer screening programme has only been fully up and running since 2010 so it is too early to say exactly how many lives it saves. But experts think that screening will save more than 2000 lives each year by 2025.