Scottish Government
Printable version

New bowel cancer home screening test

Detect Cancer Early turns three.

A new bowel cancer test which simplifies the sample collection process is to be introduced in a bid to increase participation in Scotland’s national bowel screening programme and save even more lives.

The announcement was made as Health Secretary Shona Robison joined cancer clinicians, charities and patients to mark the three year anniversary of the Scottish Government’s £30 million Detect Cancer Early (DCE) programme, which has received an additional £9 million commitment for 2015/16.

The new FIT home screening test (faecal immunochemical test), that will see participants returning just one bowel motion sample instead of the three samples required for the current test, will be introduced over the next two years to help boost uptake in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme from its current level of 56.1per cent1.

The existing test has proved hugely valuable in detecting cancer early and remains the most effective way of detecting bowel cancer in its earliest stages. It is therefore essential that Scots aged 50-74 continue to complete and return the test they receive through their door during the transition period.

This latest commitment was announced as the Health Secretary reflected on the achievements of the ground-breaking DCE programme, which aims to increase the proportion of people who are diagnosed in the early stages of breast, bowel and lung cancer by 25 per cent by the end of 2015.

Launched in February 2012, DCE has worked with leading clinicians and charities to develop innovative projects, increase diagnostic capacity and support clinical posts, as well as driving improvements in screening and training.

High profile marketing campaigns – featuring Elaine C Smith and Sir Alex Ferguson – have also helped raise awareness of early signs and symptoms and reassure Scots that cancer can be beaten, and often cured, if detected early.

Elaine, who fronted the breast cancer campaign, and attended the event said :

"I've been moved to tears many times over these past three years by the response of so many women writing to me, approaching me after shows, or just in the street telling me what this campaign did for them - on many occasions saying that it had literally saved their life. I'm immensely proud to be a part of such a forward thinking, bold campaign and want all that great work to continue."

With DCE contributing to 24.3 per cent of all breast, bowel and lung cancers in 2012 and 2013 being diagnosed at the earliest stages2, further achievements from the last three years include:


  • 80.6 per cent increase in the average number of replacement bowel screening kits requested each month since launch3
  • On average, 4,300 more kits are returned each month compared to pre-campaign activity4


  • 50 per cent more women visited their GP with concerns about breast cancer following the ‘lumps aren’t the only sign’ breast symptoms campaign in September 20125
  • Spontaneous awareness of breast cancer symptoms included in the campaign, other than lumps, doubled during the campaign period6


  • 50 per cent increase in the proportion of 55+ year olds from areas of deprivation who disagreed strongly that they would ‘feel silly’ going to the doctor with any changes they thought could be lung cancer7
  • Almost a sixth more men aged over 40 disagree that you can’t survive lung cancer8

Health Secretary Shona Robison said:

“It is fantastic to reach this important milestone, particularly as we announce a new bowel cancer screening test that will enhance our ability to save lives through the earlier detection of bowel cancer.

“Over the last three years, DCE has adopted bold approaches to make people aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer, invested in innovative projects and delivered advancements in screening. It will be a while before we can see the full impact of the programme but we’re starting to see positive results emerge.

“We’ve also seen an important shift change in the attitudes Scots have towards the disease, with more people recognising the benefits of early detection and value of screening. Continuing to drive this awareness of the benefits of early detection is key to getting people to act sooner rather than later and increasing survival rates.

“As we look towards the future of DCE, I want to express my gratitude to those who have supported the programme so far. Each individual effort has contributed to us making a difference, improving outcomes for people with cancer, and improving the health of the nation.”

The Health Minister was joined by Dr Hilary Dobson, a leading clinician who has been instrumental in driving improvements in the early detection of breast cancer.

Dr Dobson, Regional Cancer Lead Clinician, West of Scotland Cancer Network and Consultant Radiologist and Clinical Director at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde said:

“Showing real women’s breasts in mainstream channels - that’s not on page 3 - was a brave step in raising awareness of key symptoms other than lumps. It prompted women with concerns to visit their GP and clearly increased symptom awareness – an effect that is maintained even now.”

Professor Robert Steele, Director of the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme, added:

“The bold approach of DCE has helped break down barriers people face when it comes to talking about ‘down there’ and resulted in even more bowel screening kits being requested and returned than ever before.

“It’s fair to say that Scotland has taken several strides in the last three years towards making bowel screening a social norm and we expect the introduction of the new bowel screening test will continue to drive uptake rates in the national screening programme, saving more lives.”

Notes To Editors

Footage and images of the Detect Cancer Early bowel, breast and lung advertising campaigns is available. 

A three year anniversary video has been created to celebrate the Detect Cancer Early programme. View it here:

Scottish Bowel Screening Programme Statistics, for invitations between 1 November 2011 and 31 October 2013, published 26 August 2014

Detect Cancer Early Staging Data, Year 2 (2012 and 2013 combined), ISD, published 29 July 2014

3 Scottish Bowel Screening Centre (Monthly Management Information)

4 Scottish Bowel Screening Centre (Monthly Management Information)

GP consultations for breast symptoms, September – November 2012, ISD, published 26 March 2013

Breast Cancer Campaign Evaluation, fieldwork Aug and Oct 2012, TNS BMRB

DCE tracking, Lung cancer campaign evaluation, TNS BMRB, comparing attitudes in Oct 13 to Dec 13

Comparing two data sets (pre - post launch). 2011 data: 935 adults aged 40+ in the C1C2DE social grades interviewed between 29 November and 19 December 2011. 2015 data: 500 adults aged 40+ in the C1C2DE social grades interviewed from 27th – 23rd January 2015.

Supporting quotes

Emma Anderson, Bowel Cancer UK, said: “Before DCE the topic of bowel cancer was a hard thing to raise. Since the campaign people are openly talking to us, asking questions and telling us about their experiences. It’s helped normalise what was an otherwise difficult topic.”

Lorraine Dallas, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “Lung cancer has, for too long, been swept under the carpet but the launch of Detect Cancer Early marked a gear-change in Scotland. It pushed lung cancer firmly into the public domain, sparked conversations and helped challenge the stigma attached to the disease.”

James Jopling, Director Breakthrough Breast Cancer Scotland, said: “We believe early detection is vital in the fight against breast cancer.

“The Detect Cancer Early campaign, featuring Elaine C Smith, was ground breaking and was recognised worldwide for showing real images of women with the real symptoms of breast cancer. We applaud the campaign for raising awareness and providing women with the knowledge to spot this deadly disease.

“Thanks to funding from the Detect Cancer Early campaign, Breakthrough is currently testing new ways to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer through the Scottish Breast Screening Programme. It’s important that we continue to build on progress to ensure that all Scottish women know exactly what to look out for, encourage them to regularly touch, look and check for changes and see their GP if they spot anything usual.”

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager for Scotland, said: “We know Scotland still lags behind many other countries – even though our cancer survival rates are improving. Earlier diagnosis remains one of the keys to improving Scotland’s cancer survival. On its third anniversary the Detect Cancer Early initiative remains as important as ever, working to increase the number of Scots being diagnosed earlier, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

“Cancer Research UK believes it’s vital that more people have their cancers diagnosed at the earliest stages so we’re working with the health community across Scotland to achieve this. Campaigns for bowel, breast and lung cancer have already boosted public awareness of cancer symptoms so people are more likely to go to their GP earlier.”


Channel website:

Share this article

Latest News from
Scottish Government