New test for early signs of bowel cancer

An innovative new way of detecting and preventing bowel cancer at its earliest stages is being offered to Tayside patients.

NHS Tayside is one of only four Scottish Boards who will be piloting bowel scope screening before it may be rolled out across the rest of the country.

The bowel scope test helps detect polyps in the bowel that could eventually become cancerous. The earlier cancer is detected the easier it is to treat and the higher the chance of survival.

The bowel scope screening (sigmoidoscope) uses a thin flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end that allows a doctor or nurse to see the lower part of the large bowel. If they identify any abnormal areas the doctor or nurse will take samples (biopsies) with the sigmoidoscope. Any growths of the bowel lining (polyps) will also be removed and sent for examination. The whole procedure takes about 15 minutes.

Bill Berry from Dundee is a good example of the importance of early cancer screening. Bill, who is 65, discovered he had cancer after he completed a routing screening test. Following an abnormal result, Bill was called to Ninewells Hospital for a colonoscopy which detected four polyps on his bowel. These were removed and the larger one was found to be cancerous. The early intervention however meant that Bill did not require any further treatment and with regular tests is still cancer-free after two years.

Bill said: “As the cancer was caught early, I was saved from needing major surgery or chemotherapy. Now I talk about my story to my friends to try to promote early screening.

“It takes a few minutes of your life and you have the opportunity to reduce the chance of a more serious outcome.”

Macmillan Lead Colorectal Cancer Nurse Specialist Jackie Rodger said, “Bowel cancer, when caught early enough, is one of the most treatable cancers.

“This new test will help us to prevent cancer by indentifying and removing pre-cancerous polyps and so reducing the risk of developing cancer in the future.”

Bowel cancer is Scotland’s third most common cancer, with almost 4,000 people diagnosed every year. Both men and women are at risk and it is more common in people who are over the age of 55.

In Tayside, around 330 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year. Six out of ten women will complete the bowel screening test and five out of ten men. The new test will complement the current implemented screening programme. Everyone who is offered bowel scope screening will continue to be sent a home screening kit as usual. The greatest health benefit will come from taking part in both types of bowel screening.

For information contact the Scottish Bowel Screening Helpline on 0800 0121 833 or visit or