Guidance on faecal immunochemical testing (FIT) to help diagnose colorectal cancer among symptomatic patients in primary care

A new guideline around faecal immunochemical testing (FIT) in patients with signs or symptoms of suspected colorectal cancer (CRC). NHS England has subsequently written to all GP practices in England recommending they implement this guideline ‘in full’.

Symptoms alone have a poor sensitivity for CRC, meaning a high volume of secondary care investigations are required to detect cases if symptom-based criteria alone guide referrals. Endoscopy services in the UK have been struggling to keep up with referral demands, and waiting times for a colonoscopy lengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is in this context that the role of FIT has been recently evaluated, to determine whether it can safely triage referrals and better identify high-risk patients than symptoms and non-specific blood tests alone.


FIT offers a non-invasive, community-based opportunity to help improve triage of the large number of patients seen in primary care with lower GI symptoms. Patients with a negative FIT, particularly in the context of a normal examination and other investigations, are low risk and may be managed in primary care if symptoms resolve. However, CRC pathways must permit the referral of people with a negative FIT and persistent and concerning symptoms or rectal bleeding for urgent assessment.

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