April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. This is an annual event designed to increase awareness of bowel cancer and raise funds towards treating the condition.
It is driven by various charitable organisations including Bowel Cancer UK, who aim to have no victim of bowel cancer by 2050.
Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest killer cancer. However, we know that it can be possible to detect early signs at a stage when it could be fully curable.
Tests to detect these signs are called “screening”. Early diagnosis for bowel cancer saves lives, therefore screening is really important.
This is the reason why April has been dedicated to raising awareness of bowel cancer symptoms and encouraging people to take up the screening that is offered to them.
What is bowel cancer and how can it affect me?
Bowel cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the large bowel. It is a common cancer and about 1 in 20 people will get it during their lifetime.
Many people with bowel cancer do not experience any symptoms in the early stages of disease, which is why it is important to screen for this condition in healthy people.
When symptoms do appear, these can vary, but common signs and symptoms to look out for can include:
- Bleeding from your bottom or blood in your stool (always check after using the toilet)
- Changes in your bowel habits that last for more than 3 weeks (including diarrhoea or constipation)
- Abdominal pain/discomfort or a lump in your tummy
- Fatigue or weakness
- Unexplained weight loss
If you experience any of these symptoms you should speak to your GP.
Click here to read Pinches’ blog to find out more about the causes and risk factors and how you could protect yourself from developing bowel cancer.
What bowel cancer screening tests are available on the NHS?
There are two types of test used in NHS bowel cancer screening:
(1) Home testing kit (the FOB test): a kit you use to collect small samples of your poo and post them to a laboratory so they can be checked for tiny amounts of blood (which could be caused by cancer). This is provided for those aged 60 to 74.
(2) Bowel scope screening: a test where a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end is used to look for and remove any polyps inside your bowel. Anybody aged between 55 and 60 will be invited for a one-off bowel scope screening test.
If these tests find anything unusual, you might be asked to have further tests to confirm or rule out cancer.
Response rates for these screening tests are currently low at only 50%.
This means half of the people considered to be most at risk of bowel cancer are not taking up the screening offered to them for free.
If we can increase awareness of this important condition, we could raise this response rate and find more cancers at an early stage to save more lives.
If you have any concerns about your risks of bowel cancer (eg: because someone in your family has bowel cancer) speak with a doctor about the screening options open to you.
Pinches Medical and Wellbeing in Macclesfield hosted an event on Tuesday 26th March to raise awareness of this important condition and encourage people to participate in screening.
It was a really informative evening with Mr Khan, a consultant specialist from the Spire Regency Hospital in Macclesfield, who gave us some useful tips, and a stage 4 cancer fighter, Kelly Smith, who told us her inspirational story.
Pinches support for NHS bowel cancer screening
Pinches Medical and Wellbeing are committed to supporting life-saving health promotion such as NHS screening programmes.
To encourage people to take up the screening options available to them, for the entire month of April we will provide a free appointment for anyone who has concerns about bowel cancer screening to explain to them what is involved.
Knowing all the facts about the screening is key to giving people confidence to take up this important opportunity and can save lives.
If you have any concerns about bowel cancer screening and wish to make an appointment please book for free with the Pinches reception team on 01625 704 777.