Simple new bowel cancer test could be 95% accurate

Camden Clinical Commissioning Group’s Clinical Lead for cancer, Dr Imogen Staveley, is taking part in an important pilot study for a new colorectal (bowel) cancer test.

The study – the largest of its kind in the UK – aims to find out whether a simple stool test patients can do at home can accurately detect colorectal cancer without the need for a colonoscopy, which involves inserting a small camera into the patient’s bowel through the rectum. If successful, the test could cut the number of patients undergoing colonoscopies by up to 40 per cent.

The Quantitative Faecal Immunochemical Test, known as qFIT, detects unseen blood in a stool sample that could indicate cancer. It is much more sensitive than similar stool tests and evidence is growing that it could rule out colorectal cancer for patients with suspicious lower abdominal symptoms with more than 95 per cent accuracy.

Imogen, a GP at Camden’s Prince of Wales Medical Centre, said: “I’m really excited to be one of the GP practices taking part in the qFIT pilot study. Currently when patients come to see their GP with symptoms that could indicate colorectal cancer many will end up being referred for a colonoscopy to investigate further.

“We are hoping that the qFIT test will prove to be a simple, inexpensive alternative to a colonoscopy for lots of patients to rule out colorectal cancer. This would be excellent news for patients as many of them would avoid having to go through a potentially unnecessary invasive procedure.”​

Last year, more than 260,000 patients with lower abdominal symptoms were seen by a specialist after an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer. Most had a colonoscopy but only about four per cent actually had cancer.

The study is being run by the University College London Hospital Cancer Collaborative and involves patients from 30 GP practices and six NHS trusts across north central and north east London, and west Essex.