More than 11,000 deaths from colon cancer could be prevented by simply re-inviting people

More than 11,000 lives could be saved by re-inviting people who miss the most important colon cancer test, according to research.

An annual reminder would boost uptake by nearly 14 percent and catch thousands of new cases of the disease, the Cancer Research UK study found.

Anyone aged 60 to 74 who is registered with a GP in England is automatically sent a stool test every two years at home.

It looks for traces of blood, which can be a sign of colon cancer or polyps — small growths in the gut that can become cancerous over time.

But people from disadvantaged communities are significantly less likely to complete the test and therefore benefit from early diagnosis.

Bowel cancer death rates in England are 30 percent higher for men living in the most deprived areas compared to the least, and 15 percent higher for women.

The late presenter Dame Deborah James – known as ‘darmbabe’ – shed light on the deadly disease and raised millions for charity in her final days in her battle with cancer.

The host of the BBC podcast You, Me and the Big C constantly urged people to ‘check your poop’. She was given a damehood in May in recognition of her fundraising efforts and passed away last week.

More than 11,000 lives could be saved by re-inviting people who miss the most important colon cancer test, according to research. Dame Deborah James – also known as ‘darmbabe’ – shed light on the deadly disease and raised millions for charity in her final days in her battle with cancer

The new study, based on modeling, found that annual reintroductions for people who had not returned a stool sample would lead to a 13.6% increase in admission in the first year.

Ad campaigns, text reminders and phone calls prior to the invitation could further boost participation, researchers at the University of Sheffield said.


Colon or colorectal cancer affects the colon, which is made up of the colon and rectum.

Such tumors usually develop from precancerous growths called polyps.

Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the bottom
  • Blood in the stool
  • A change in bowel habits that lasts for at least three weeks
  • unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme, unexplained fatigue
  • Stomach ache

Most cases have no obvious cause, but people are more at risk if they:

  • Are older than 50
  • Have a family history of the condition
  • Have a personal history of polyps in their intestines
  • Suffers from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease
  • Lead an unhealthy lifestyle

Treatment usually includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

More than nine in ten people with stage one colon cancer survive five years or more after their diagnosis.

This drops significantly if diagnosed at later stages.

According to UK bowel cancer figures, more than 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year – and 17,000 die.

It affects about 40 per 100,000 adults per year in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Colon cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK after lung cancer, killing around 17,000 Britons every year.

There is a huge difference in absorption between poor and rich communities – 54.3 percent in the most disadvantaged group compared to 73.5 percent in the least.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Screening is an effective way to detect cancer early and save lives, but not everyone does the same, and this contributes to health inequalities in the UK.

This study shows that sending annual test kits to those who fail to complete them can help close this gap and save lives.

Addressing health inequalities is critical to achieving the government’s goals for early diagnosis and saving lives.

“We are urging the government to conduct a pilot re-invitation project as part of the upcoming 10-year cancer plan.

“We need a cancer plan for everyone — and bold action like this will benefit future generations.”

The national bowel cancer screening program will be gradually expanded to everyone aged 50 to 59 over the next four years.

It’s already started, with 58- and 59-year-olds invited this year.

Lead researcher from Leeds University Chloe Thomas said: ‘There are many factors that lead to disparities in colorectal cancer mortality, including differences in underlying health conditions and access to treatment.

‘Although screening is only a small part of the picture, it is essential that the program works for everyone.

“We believe we have found a cost-effective way to increase screening participation and reduce mortality in all groups, while also reducing inequalities.

‘But this was based on modeling and real-world data is needed to confirm our conclusions.

“The next step would be to analyze data from a pilot to improve our predictions of long-term mortality benefits.”

Dame Deborah James campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness about colon cancer after her diagnosis in 2016.

The mother of two has been praised for her candid approach to talking about cancer and sharing her brutally honest experiences with treatment and everyday living with the disease.

In early May, she revealed that she had stopped active treatment and was receiving end-of-life care at her parents’ home in Woking, with her husband Sebastien and their two children by her side. She passed away on June 28.

In her final weeks, the presenter raised millions of pounds for research and became a lady for her “tiring” work raising awareness of the disease.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the thousands of tributes to the dedicated campaigner, hailing her as an “inspiration” and saying that because of her campaign work “many, many lives will be saved.”

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