Question to the Department of Health and Social Care:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to improve early diagnosis of bowel cancer.
The National Health Service is improving pathways to get people diagnosed faster once they are referred and is looking into alternative routes into the system, including non-specific symptom (NSS) pathways for patients who do not fit clearly into a single ‘urgent cancer’ referral pathway but who are at risk of being diagnosed with cancer. 103 NSS pathways are currently operational, with more in development.
The NHS bowel cancer screening programme is currently available to everyone aged 60 to 74 years old every two years. Since April 2021, the NHS in England has been gradually reducing the age for bowel screening. The age extension programme began in 2021/22, inviting people aged 56 years old and plans to complete rollout to age 50 years old by 2024/25. This extension was recommended to improve the number of cancers detected and helping to prevent it in some cases.