Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 12:51 GMT
Early warning for second biggest cancer killer
The home test kit could help save thousands of lives
Europe's first pilot programme for screening bowel cancer - the second biggest cancer killer in the UK - is being set up in England and Scotland.
The £5m programme will cover the Warwickshire area and the Grampian, Fife and Tayside area.
Bowel cancer kills 20,000 people a year in the UK, but it is one of the most curable cancers if caught early.
It is second only to lung cancer in its mortality rate and kills 50% more people than breast cancer.
Bobby Moore and Audrey Hepburn both died from the disease.
The Crocus Trust, which campaigns to raise awareness about bowel cancer, says the early warning tests may eventually be able to save 15% of the people who contract it.
Up to 400,000 people aged 50 to 69, the group most affected by the disease, will be invited to take part in the trial.
They will be sent a home testing kit which will allow them to take faecal samples.
This will pick up any hidden blood in the stools, an early indicator of bowel cancer.
Announcing the two-year pilot programme, public health minister Tessa Jowell said: "We have already made an extra £10m available for faster access to diagnosis and treatment of colorectal [bowel] cancer.
"Screening may be another way to improve people's chance of surviving this terrible disease."
Lynn Faulds Wood, director of the Crocus Trust, was diagnosed with bowel cancer eight years ago.
She told the BBC's Breakfast News that more education was needed to alert people about the symptoms of the disease.
"I never knew about it and I could very easily have died," she said, adding that her GP did not recognise her symptoms.
"We are not doing enough to educate people."
The Crocus Trust has been sending leaflets out to health centres and GPs about the symptoms to look out for.
They include blood in the stools or a change in bowel habits.
Lynn Faulds Wood says people with the symptoms should wait six weeks to see if they can influence the symptoms.
This is because some of them are similar to other conditions, such as haemorrhoids.
The cancer is usually slow-growing and can take years to develop.
Most people who suffer from it are over 60, but thousands of younger people are also at risk.
If the pilots - which begin in the autumn - are successful, they may be extended across the country.