A new, simpler bowel screening test has seen levels of participation rise to a record high.
Scotland was the first UK nation to introduce the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) in November 2017. The new test requires the collection of just one sample, rather than three over a 10 day period as was previously the case.
Figures show that from November 2017 to April 2018, 64% of those eligible returned their FIT. In the same period the previous year, uptake of the old test (the Faecal Occult Blood Test) was 56%.
Whereas 68.3% of people in the least deprived quintile of Ayrshire and Arran had the test done, only 46.9% of the most deprived quintile took advantage of the free screening test – a difference of 21.4 percentage points.
Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick MSP said:
“The fact that more people than ever before are taking part in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme is very encouraging."
“We know that the earlier a cancer is detected, the greater the chances of successful treatment and often cure. This is why we launched our Detect Cancer Early programme in 2012 backed by a £42 million investment."
"Screening remains one of the most effective ways to find bowel cancer early and help reduce health inequalities in cancer outcomes. This is why I’m delighted to see one of the biggest improvements was amongst those living in deprived areas.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP commented:
“Screening saves lives. While I am pleased at the increase of bowel screening uptake in Ayrshire since the introduction of FIT, the discrepancy in uptake between deprived and less deprived areas worries me.
“This health inequality exists despite the test being free and £5 million of the SNP Government’s £100 million Cancer Strategy is specifically targeted towards increasing participation in cancer screening programmes in areas of deprivation and other areas where uptake is lowest.
“I have written to NHS Ayrshire & Arran to urge them to encourage more people to take the FIT test, and redouble efforts to increase uptake within the groups least likely to complete the test.”
In Scotland men and women aged 50 to 74 are invited every two years to take part in bowel screening.
Scottish Bowel Screening figures can be read here.