The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended FIT tests be used by GPs to test for colorectal cancer.
According to figures by Cancer Research UK, an alarming 42,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are recorded each year. However, due to delays with colonoscopy procedures, detecting the cancer early can prove challenging.
Here, we’ll be exploring what exactly FIT tests are, the reasoning behind NICE’s recommendation, and the vital importance of early detection in the fight against colorectal cancer.
What are FIT Tests and How Do They Work?
The Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is a simple, self-administered test that detects minuscule traces of blood in your stool. These traces are so small that you may not notice them, but they could potentially signal the presence of cancer.
It’s important to note that blood in your stool can be caused by various medical conditions, and not just cancer. However, if it is cancer, early detection significantly increases the effectiveness of treatment.
FIT is uniquely designed to detect human blood, minimising the chance of false positives from dietary sources. Conducting the test is a simple process that you carry out at home, involving just one stool sample.
Your doctor will provide you with the test or arrange for it to be mailed to you. To collect the sample, use a plastic container lined with toilet paper placed in the toilet bowl. Ensure your stool doesn’t encounter urine, water, or the toilet itself.
You can typically expect your results within a fortnight. If you haven’t heard anything after two weeks, contact the doctor who arranged the test.
Why NICE is Recommending FIT Tests for Colorectal Cancer
So, why the specific emphasis on FIT? The decision to recommend this test is aimed at easing the strain on colonoscopy services.
Given the current limited capacity, colonoscopy can sometimes come with long wait times, delaying a potentially life-saving diagnosis. By endorsing FIT as an alternative diagnostic tool, the goal is to significantly cut down these wait times and improve early detection rates.
Why Early Detection Matters in Colorectal Cancer
The best way to deal with colorectal cancer, like any health condition, is to catch it early. Early detection not only increases your chances of a successful treatment, but also offers more treatment options with fewer side effects.
A colonoscopy is a proactive step towards maintaining your health and can help detect a number of conditions, not just cancer. Also, as a procedure, it has come a long way in terms of comfort and convenience. A colonoscopy normally takes around half an hour and is carried out under sedation, so you can relax and should feel very little discomfort. Usually, cancer is not detected, and if the test finds polyps (pre-cancerous growths), these can be removed. The test can help identify other causes of bowel symptoms, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
If you are concerned you may have colorectal cancer, or you have been recommended for a colonoscopy, schedule an appointment with Mr. Alan Woodward today.