A POTENTIALLY lifesaving test to detect bowel cancer has been launched this week.

The “FIT” test looks for tiny amounts of blood in poo and is now available to all patients in East Lancashire.

A sample collection tube with instructions can now be accessed by all GPs in East Lancashire to give to patients if there is a worry that they could have bowel cancer.

Health chiefs said the “FIT” test is a reliable method to indicate who needs further, more detailed investigation.

It can also be used as a rule out test for significant bowel disease.

Dr Neil Smith, a GP at Oakenhurst Medical Practice in Blackburn, said the aim is to see bowel cancer being picked up at a much earlier stage.

Dr Smith said the FIT test is a new weapon in our battle against cancer.

He said: “Bowel cancer is a terrible disease.

"Many of the symptoms and signs are not very specific for cancer and often only occur when the disease is advanced and often diagnosed late.

"I would like to see bowel cancer being picked up at a much earlier stage.

"This would make it easier to treat and save lives.

“We are delighted to now have this test available for all patients.

"It is important that GPs are aware of the test and that patients complete and return their samples.

"This FIT test is a new weapon in our battle against cancer.”

The introduction of the FIT test has been funded and facilitated by the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance which aims to improve cancer outcomes for patients.

It includes representation from cancer commissioners, cancer service providers and patients.

East Lancashire Hospital Trust, (ELHT) Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups have all worked together to offer the service.

Dr Kathryn Brownbill, clinical director for clinical laboratory medicine services at ELHT, said: “The laboratory service is very pleased to have received funding for this new equipment and the initiative will enable us to meet with national clinical excellence guidance.

"Patients with a positive test result will be guided on fast referral pathway, meaning that they will see a specialist cancer doctor within 14 days to aid earlier diagnosis.”

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the country.

The disease is responsible for over 16,000 deaths in the UK each year.

It is more common in men living in deprived areas.

When diagnosed at its earliest stage, more than nine in 10 people with bowel cancer will survive their disease for five years or more, compared with less than one in 10 people when diagnosed at the latest stage.

Symptoms of bowel cancer can include bleeding from your bottom and blood in your poo, a persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness for no obvious reason and a pain or lump in your tummy.

For more information on bowel cancer, visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bowel-cancer/symptoms/