South West London Collaborative Commissioning

Get to know your bowels – April is bowel cancer awareness month

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and GPs across south west London are reminding local people aged 60 – 74 to ensure they take part in regular screening.

Bowel Cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK.  However, if diagnosed in the early stages, it’s highly treatable.

The problem is that far too few people with bowel cancer are diagnosed in the early stages. Nearly 98 per cent of people will survive bowel cancer for five years or more if detected at the earliest stage compared with 7 per cent diagnosed at the latest.

Some people either find it uncomfortable to discuss the symptoms or simply do not know what they are.   Symptoms of bowel cancer may include:  abdominal pain, blood in your stools and/or a change in your normal bowel habit lasting three weeks or more. Other symptoms can include extreme tiredness for no obvious reason and unexplained weight loss.

Whatever, your age, if you notice these symptoms, speak to your GP as soon as possible. And remember – you can talk to your GP about anything.  They’ve heard it all before, so there’s no need to be embarrassed.

According to Bowel Cancer UK, around half (54 per cent) of all bowel cancers could be prevented by measures including:

 

  • eating a healthier diet, rich in wholegrains and reducing the amount of processed meat eaten

 

  • taking more exercise

 

  • cutting down on alcohol

 

  • stopping smoking.

Older people are most at risk of bowel cancer.  Regular screening is the best way to get diagnosed early and can help to save thousands of lives. If you are aged 60-74, you will receive a letter inviting you to take part in the bowel cancer screening programme. Every two years, you will receive a home test kit, which is used to collect a stool sample.

 

For more information on screening and symptoms go to NHS Choices at www.nhs.uk or visit Bowel Cancer UK