Sorry, the doctor says, it's colon cancer. The judgment about that nagging, uncomfortable pain in your stomach that you had put under pressure is scary. And it's confusing – because just a few months earlier a routine test gave you the best. How could this have happened?
That test you had was bowel testing, introduced in England in 2013 for people over 55 and said that the risk of developing the disease – which kills every Brit every 30 minutes – is reduced by a third.
But according to figures published in the medical journal The Lancet, one third of the abnormal growths and possibly fatal tumors cannot be detected.
Figures released by medical journal The Lancet claim that a NHS colorectal cancer test does not detect about a third of abnormal growths and potentially fatal tumors
In fact, the one-off study leaves two-thirds of the intestine uninvestigated – something that patients are rarely told.
Now leading colon cancer experts have warned that the tests put many people in a false sense of security and mean that they are ignoring potentially dangerous symptoms.
"A negative result on colon cancer screening does not exclude you from having colon cancer," says Andrew Beggs, a colorectal surgeon consultant and clinical scientist at Cancer Research UK. "It just makes it less likely."
Fiona Osgun, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, says: "Bowel cancer screening saves lives. But it only looks at certain parts of the intestine, so if you have polyps or colon cancer that grows further in your colon, it won't detect that.
& # 39; The golden rule is that if you notice something unusual for you, even after screening, you go to a doctor. & # 39;
The cancers develop in non-shielded parts
More than 40,000 Britons are diagnosed with colon cancer every year and it is the second largest cancer killer.
But because the symptoms – such as bloating and diarrhea – are often passed on as irritable bowel syndrome, many people are diagnosed late and when the tumor has grown.
And once the cancer spreads to different parts of the body, there is only a seven percent chance of living longer than five years.
Previously, in an effort to encourage early diagnosis, routine, biennial screenings for NHS patients in England were rolled out over the age of 60. They consisted of a home package for stool samples – doctors then checked for microscopic traces of blood that indicate cancer in every part of the intestine. But in 2013 a new test was introduced for patients between 55 and 60 years old to detect the disease even earlier.
More than 40,000 Brits are diagnosed with colon cancer every year and it is the second largest cancer killer
The move was welcomed by experts, given that between 2004 and 2016, the percentage of colon cancer in people between 40 and 49 years old has risen by almost two percent. The one-off test – known as a intestinal scope – includes a thin tube with a small camera that is inserted into the rear passage.
It checks for small growths, called polyps, which, if not removed, can lead to cancer, but also searches for ready-made tumors.
Colon cancer is noted in about one in 300 people who are screened. Approximately half of all general practice in England invites patients to the test, which takes place during a ten-minute appointment, sometimes with a nurse.
Some studies suggest that the risk of death is reduced by 40 percent. But the intestinal scope only controls the lowest third of your intestine – the rectum and the left side of the colon.
Statistically, these are the most polyps. But in the depths of the gut, pre-cancerous tumors and even tumors could go unnoticed. According to the Office for National Statistics, one third of colon cancer among 55-59 year-olds develops in these non-shielded areas. The over-60s nevertheless benefit from a much better stool test, the fecal immunochemical home test kit or FIT, which examines the entire intestine.
Last year, the government announced plans to reduce the age of FIT tests to people over 50. The promise came after a wealth of research showed that the risk of colon cancer rises sharply above the age of 50. But currently there is no clarity about when this will take effect – or whether it will completely replace the intestinal scope.
NHS England said it worked to implement this "significant change", for which "a lot of extra staff" should be trained.
CASE STUDY: Mama was told & # 39; you are clear & # 39; … then needed surgery and chemotherapy
Kate Wardle, pictured, was screened for colorectal cancer in March 2017 – but the test lacked growth beyond the scope of the scope, which had developed into a two-inch tumor within 18 months
I know all too well about the pitfalls of bowel testing. My mother Kate, 57, accepted the test offer in March 2017, after receiving an invitation from her doctor's office, Sally Wardle writes.
No polyps were detected – nor any other sign of cancer. The nurse said she had & # 39; nothing wrong & # 39 ;. But beyond the scope of the scope was a hidden tumor.
And by the time it was discovered 18 months later, it was more than 2in long.
The doctors said it had developed over the course of a few years. But the symptoms did not occur until a year after her screening – a "nig" pain in her left lower abdomen.
She didn't think about it because the intestine had considered her cancer free.
She says: "I never thought about it, it can be colon cancer. The doctor thought I had diverticulitis, which is a bowel infection. "
Seven months after Mama's gut, in October 2018, she started suffering from extreme fatigue and became short of breath while walking. Further blood tests showed that she was a serious anemia – a known warning signal for colon cancer.
Another, more concerned doctor sent her for a colonoscopy. And the research revealed a large, bleeding tumor in the horizontal part of the intestine that extends over the top.
She was diagnosed with stage three cancer, with later tests that showed it had spread to some of her lymph nodes.
"I was in shock because I had the gut," she says. "I think I was lulled to sleep by a false sense of security by getting a negative result."
The week before Christmas, growth was removed and in May, Mum completed a 12-week chemotherapy course. Fortunately it seems that the cancer has disappeared. She is recovering now, aware that things could have been different.
She says: "I would urge everyone to perform a screening, but bear in mind that it does not notice any cancer that lies further along the colon. Go to your doctor if something does not feel or looks good. & # 39;
When it comes to screening, a few unfortunate patients will inevitably fall through the net. But if the new FIT test was available for younger people – such as my mother – would it leave less room for error? I can't help but think so.
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