Out-patients at Royal London offered home kits to test for bowel cancer

Ready to test home kits at Royal London hospital labs

Ready to test home kits at Royal London hospital labs - Credit: Archant

A pilot study to see if a simple test that can be done at home to ‘rule out’ the presence of bowel cancer has begun in east London.

Hospital labs in Whitechapel

Hospital labs in Whitechapel - Credit: Archant

Anyone with abdominal symptoms who is undergoing assessments at the Royal London Hospital or with GP practices taking part in the pilot is being offered additional new testing kits to take home.

The kits are then examined at the backroom laboratories in Whitechapel to compare with hospital examination results to see how accurate they are—which could reduce the number of patients having unnecessary colonoscopies by 40 per cent, the NHS predicts.

“The vast majority of colorectal cancers in east London are diagnosed late,” London Cancer Colorectal Pathway Board chair Michael Machesney warns.

“We want more patients to have early diagnosis and survive colorectal cancer. A home testing kit would improve how health care, if we can prove the test can accurately rule it out at an early stage.”

Testing blood at NHS Whitechapel labs

Testing blood at NHS Whitechapel labs - Credit: Archant

The first batch of home kits were given out at the hospital yesterday as the pilot project was launched. The kits detect hidden blood in stool samples that could indicate colorectal cancer more sensitively, with 95 per cent accuracy.

Patients with symptoms are normally referred by their GP to hospital for examination, which involves inserting a small camera into the lower bowel.

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Most have a colonoscopy—but only four-in-100 actually have cancer. This means too many people are having unnecessary colonoscopies, say doctors, which puts a burden on hospitals.

The new kits are being offered to patients at the Royal London to test on themselves at home, in addition to their hospital examination. The results of both tests are then be compared at the hospital’s labs to check that the home kit has successfully predicted the result of the colonoscopy.

Lab research at the Royal London

Lab research at the Royal London - Credit: Archant

The pilot is being tried through GP practices and six NHS hospital trusts, with the Royal London analysing all tests.

GP practices taking part in the pilot include City Wellbeing in Cannon Street Road, Whitechapel, St Stephen’s in Roman Road, Bow, St Andrew’s at Hannaford Walk, Bromley-by-Bow, and Chrisp Street clinic in Poplar.