Bowel cancer screening
In Denmark, all citizens between 50 and 74 years of age are invited to bowel cancer screening every second year. A screening program looks for precursors to cancer and cancer in people who have no symptoms. Without a screening program, bowel cancer is usually discovered late, because symptoms appear late.
Bowel cancer screening in Denmark
In Denmark around 5.000 people a year develop bowel cancer, i.e. cancer of the colon or the rectum. Bowel cancer is one of the most widespread types of cancer in the population. Around 1.800 die from bowel cancer each year.
Citizens aged 50 to 74 are invited to partake in screening for bowel cancer every second year. The test method is a so-called FIT-test (fecal immunochemical test) that checks for hidden blood in the stool. If the test reveals hidden blood, you will need to have a colonoscopy to investigate whether the blood is caused by cancer or polyps - or by other causes such as ulcers, haemorrhoids, or other conditions.
The earlier bowel cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chances of being cured.
How to take the test
A screening kit is sent to your home by mail. You use the test kit to collect a small sample of poo, and then return this to a lab by mail. The sample is then checked in a microscope for “hidden blood”, i.e. tiny amounts of blood. Hidden blood can be a sign of bowel cancer or polyps. Polyps are not cancer, but may turn into cancer over time, if not removed surgically.
What is bowel cancer?
Cancer is an illness that develops when the cells e.g. in the colon divide and multiply too quickly. This can produce a lump of tissue – a tumour. Usually bowel cancer begins inside clumps of cells – polyps – on the inner lining of the bowel. Many polyps disappear by themselves, some polyps do not change. Polyps that change and grow might eventually develop into bowel cancer over a period of years.
Causes of bowel cancer
Several studies show that diet plays a role as a risk factor for bowel cancer. Obesity, alcohol and an inactive lifestyle are among the factors increasing your risk of colorectal cancer.