Be bowel cancer aware

Residents in Liverpool are being encouraged to be more bowel cancer aware and look out for the signs and symptoms.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with one in every 20 people likely to develop bowel cancer during their lifetime. In Merseyside and Cheshire, death rates from bowel cancer are higher than the national average, with more than 570 people dying from it each year.

People should see their doctor straight away if they experience a change in their normal bowel habits that lasts for 3 weeks or more. They should look out for one or more of the following symptoms:

• Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
• A change in bowel habit that lasts for 3 weeks or more, especially a looser or runny poo
• Unexplained weight loss
• Extreme tiredness for no reason
• A pain or lump in their tummy.

Most of these symptoms won’t be bowel cancer. However, if you’re worried, it’s always best to make an appointment with your doctor to have the symptoms checked out.

Bowel cancer affects both men and women and is more common in older age, with 90% of people diagnosed aged over 55. Risk factors include diet – eating too much red or processed meat and too little fruit and vegetables, being overweight or obese, low levels of physical activity, drinking alcohol and smoking. Those with a family history of bowel cancer are also more at risk.

Local GP, Dr Ed Gaynor, said: “Treatment for bowel cancer is getting better all the time, but catching it early is really important. Early diagnosis helps to improve the chances of successfully treating the disease and your overall chances of survival. Many people leave it too late.

“As a city, uptake rates for bowel cancer screening programmes remain low (44.5%) when compared to national rates (60%). We want to help Liverpool residents understand the risk factors associated with cancer, such as diet and lifestyle, and to help them spot the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer sooner. If bowel cancer is detected early, before symptoms appear, it’s easier to treat and there is a much better chance of survival.”

The bowel cancer screening programme invites all men and women aged 60-74 to carry out an FOB (faecal occult blood) test at home. They’re sent the test kit every 2 years by post. However, less than 1 out of every 2 eligible people in Liverpool currently complete the test. People aged 75+ can request a Bowel Screening Kit every two years, by calling 0800 707 60 60.

An additional one-off test ‘bowel scope’ screening is gradually being introduced in Liverpool, offered to people aged 55. The test looks inside the lower part of the bowel aiming to spot and remove any small growths, called polyps that could eventually turn into cancer.

A key part of the CCG’s vision for tackling cancer as part of the Healthy Liverpool programme will be to help people understand the risk factors around cancer, spot the symptoms early, support changes in their lifestyle and recovery, and to ensure that wherever you live in the city, you will be able to access the best cancer care and treatment facilities closer to home.

For further information about the symptoms of cancer and the bowel cancer screening programme, visit the Bowel Cancer UK website: www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk and www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/bowel/.