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New test to help prevent bowel cancer
19 January 2017

A new test to help prevent bowel cancer is about to be rolled out in the Ipswich and east Suffolk area.

It consists of a test called flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is sometimes abbreviated to “flexisig”.

Part of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, it helps to prevent bowel cancer by finding and removing any small growths, called polyps, in the bowel that could eventually turn into cancer.

By December 2019, all men and women aged 55 and two months in all three areas will be offered screening.

For every 300 people screened, it stops two from getting bowel cancer and saves one life from bowel cancer.

If cancer is found, it is likely to have been found at an early stage which means the patient is likely to have a better chance of successful treatment and survival.

The programme in east Suffolk, north east Essex and mid Essex is being managed by Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, the NHS trust that runs Colchester General Hospital.

The new screening programme, which will cover east Suffolk, north east Essex and mid Essex, is being managed by Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust. Abby Hardy is a leading specialist screening practitioner based at Colchester general hospital.  She said: “There is a higher incidence of bowel cancer in people who are over the age of 55 which is why bowel scope screening is offered when someone has reached that age.

“At about the age of 60, people will be invited to have more bowel cancer screening using a different kind of test called a FOB test, which tests for traces of blood in stools.

“The roll-out of the programme to offer a FOB test every two years to all men and women aged 60 to 74 throughout England was completed in 2009 and has been running nationwide ever since.”

Mrs Hardy said that people are invited to have bowel scope screening only once, two months after their 55th birthday.

Some patients at the following four GP practices in Suffolk have already been invited for screening: The Barham & Claydon Surgery; Church Farm Surgery, Aldeburgh; The Peninsula Practice (Alderton, Orford and Hollesley); and Wickham Market Medical Centre.

The first bowel scope screening endoscopy clinic will take place at Ipswich Hospital on 16 February. Because the test is being offered to people who are often still working, the clinics will be held on weekday evenings.

Bowel scope screening uses a thin flexible tube – a flexible sigmoidoscope – with a tiny camera on the end to look at the large bowel.

The screening is carried out by a specially trained nurse or doctor who puts the tube into your anus and looks inside your large bowel using the tiny camera.

Bowel scope screening looks at the lower part of the large bowel because that’s where polyps can be found.

Polyps do not usually cause symptoms but some might turn into cancer if they are not removed.

If any polyps are found during the test, they are usually removed straightaway, in most cases by using a tiny wire loop passed through the tube.

Sometimes the nurse or doctor takes a tiny piece of the bowel (a biopsy) to be looked at under a microscope.

Mrs Hardy said that neither removing a polyp nor having a biopsy is painful.

Having bowel scope screening usually takes only a few minutes but the whole appointment may take about 1½ hours.

Anyone with questions or concerns about bowel scope screening should phone, free of charge, 0800 707 60 60.