Thousands more now eligible for home bowel cancer tests - following deaths of Deborah James and George Alagiah

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Around two out of 100 people who use the kit will require further testing.

Thousands more people in the North West will be sent a home-testing kit to help detect signs of bowel cancer, as the NHS expands the lifesaving NHS Bowel Screening Programme to people aged 54 in England.

Those aged 54 and over will now automatically receive a home-testing kit every two years by post when they become eligible. The kit, known as the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), checks for blood in a small stool sample, which can be a sign of bowel cancer.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Steve Hollington, a dad from Warrington, credits the FIT test with saving his life. He said: “Taking the bowel screening kit has saved my life, and potentially given me 20 more years to live it.”

Steve, who was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in 2022 after completing his first bowel screening says that it was a “winning lottery ticket” that the kit landed on his doormat. Shortly after returning the completed kit, the NHS contacted Steve to say further investigation was required, and after a colonoscopy, two tumours were found in his bowel. 

He said: “I could see at that point, that whatever the doctor had come across didn’t look good. After an MRI and a CT scan, I received the news confirming that it was, indeed, bowel cancer, which completely took me by surprise as I didn’t have a single symptom.”

 Within weeks of diagnosis, Steve underwent surgery on his bowel and was fitted by a stoma post-surgery, to allow his bowel to heal. Eighteen lymph nodes were also removed, and he went through a three-month course of chemotherapy.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Early diagnosis saves lives.Early diagnosis saves lives.
Early diagnosis saves lives.

Steve said that he realises that the fear of knowing that you have cancer can be scary and overwhelming but said: “It’s a no-brainer for me. I had no symptoms, I would have carried on not knowing had I have not taken the test, and leaving it so long would have almost certainly been too late to receive the treatment I have.”

The FIT home testing kit is already made available through the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme to everyone aged 56 to 74. The phased expansion to people aged 54 years means an additional 830,000 people in England will now be eligible for the screening test. 

How does it work?

FIT kits are done at home by putting a poo sample in a small tube and returning it by post to the NHS for testing. Those newly eligible will receive an invitation letter and will be sent their test with full instructions and prepaid return packaging.

Results are sent back to participants, along with information about further tests, if needed.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Tricia Spedding, Head of Public Health for NHS England in the North West said: “Our efforts to catch cancers at the earliest stages are saving lives, and expanding the bowel screening programme to those who are 54 will mean thousands more lives could potentially be saved.

High profile deaths

In June 2022, broadcaster Dame Deborah James died from bowel cancer, following a high-profile battle with the disease. During her illness, she urged people to look out for symptoms and take tests.

In July 2023, BBC newsreader George Alagiah died of bowel cancer aged 67. During his nine-year illness, George also urged the public to take the life-saving bowel cancer test that wasn't available to him on the NHS before his own diagnosis.

Contact details

People aged 75 and over can request a kit by phoning the NHS bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60. Information on bowel cancer and the screening programme can be found on the NHS.UK website (


Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.