April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. Almost 42,000 people are diagnosed with it every year in the UK.
More than nine out of ten new cases are in people over the age of 50, and nearly six out of ten new cases are in people aged 70 or over.
As more people are living longer in Lincolnshire, NHS Lincolnshire CCG is urging older patients not to put their health at risk by opting out of bowel cancer screening.
Dr Dave Baker, GP and South West Lincolnshire Locality Lead, NHS Lincolnshire CCG, said:
“Someone dies from bowel cancer in the UK every thirty minutes, which seems unthinkable, especially when bowel cancer is treatable when diagnosed at an early stage. So we urge patients, especially those over 60 who are most at risk, to accept their invitation to the screening process when it arrives. It could save their lives.
“If treated early there is a very good chance of recovery. The only problem is that only nine percent (9%) of patients are diagnosed at the early stage. That’s why accepting the invitation to take part in screening is so vital.”
Bowel cancer occurs when the cells in the bowel multiply abnormally and invade the surrounding tissue. The cancer can eventually spread to the other parts of the body.
The symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
• a change in bowel habit for three weeks or more, especially to looser or runny poo
• unexplained weight loss
• extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
• a pain or lump in your tummy.
Patients might experience one or more of these symptoms, but fortunately they will often turn out not to be related to a cancer at all. However, people who are worried about any symptoms that might be caused by bowel cancer should make an appointment with their GP.
“Just remember you’ll not be wasting anyone’s time by getting checked out. If it isn’t serious, you’ll put your mind at rest. If it’s bowel cancer, early detection can make all the difference. Over 90% of people who are diagnosed at the earliest stage are successfully treated. So a trip to your doctor could save your life,” adds Dr Baker.
Some people will have early bowel cancer without any symptoms, which is why it is so important to take part in the national bowel cancer screening programme when this is offered.
Patients aged 60 to 74 will automatically be sent an invitation and a screening kit to do the test at home. The testing kit is a very simple way to collect small samples of poo on a special card in your own home. There are clear instructions sent with the kit, and the process is easy to do. You then send the card in a hygienically sealed, prepaid envelope to a laboratory for testing. You will be sent the results of your test by post within two weeks.