With an 85% rise in lower gastrointestinal cancers in Trafford in the past two years, GPs are urging patients to complete ‘life-saving’ bowel cancer screening tests.
As part of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, patients aged 50+* to 74 are automatically sent a simple home testing kit every two years from NHS England to collect a small sample of poo to be checked for tiny amounts of blood which may be caused by cancer. The simple FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) kit is also available to those aged 75+ by calling the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
Dr Amal Hashim of Park Medical Practice in Timperley, part of Altrincham Healthcare Alliance PCN which includes Altrincham Medical Practice, Shay Lane Medical Centre (Drs Kelman, Cranston, Naylor, Haslam and Connell), St Johns Medical Centre and West Timperley Medical Centre, has seen a 46% increase in lower gastrointestinal cancers, which includes bowel cancer, across the five practices since 2020.
Dr Hashim explained: “Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. Early diagnosis is vital: if bowel cancer is found early there’s a much higher chance of successful treatment than when cancer has become more widespread.”
Ahead of Bowel Cancer Awareness month (April) Dr Hashim highlighted bowel cancer symptoms:
- Bleeding from the bottom and/or blood in poo
- A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in the tummy
She added: “We’re urging everyone who receives an NHS England home test for bowel cancer to complete the quick and simple test. More than 16,500 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year with 1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women diagnosed with the condition during their lifetime. The message is simple: completing a FIT test could save your life, but please contact your GP if you’ve any symptoms.”
Valerie Thompson from Timperley said: “I wouldn’t be here if I had ignored the home test kit for bowel cancer.” She explained: “I had no symptoms and was going to throw the test away when it came through the post. I decided to do it and then headed on holiday to Australia. Feeling a bit tired on my return – which I assumed was jet lag – and having lost a bit of weight which I thought was due to endless walking and a different holiday diet, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
“I underwent a colonoscopy and chemo and I have been lucky: if I had ignored the test, the bowel cancer may not have been picked up early and I may not be here today. Sadly my husband was also diagnosed with bowel cancer at a later stage and he lost his life to the condition. It’s so important to act fast. The tests can be life saving.”
Mrs Thompson said that while people are often “embarrassed to talk about bodily functions,” anyone with any concerns about a change in their bowel habits should speak to their GP.
And Dr Hashim added: “If patients have any symptoms, they should not be embarrassed or ignore them. Doctors are used to seeing lots of people with bowel problems. While many people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer – other health problems can cause similar symptoms – it is always worth being sure, so please contact your GP if you have any concerns.”
Patients can call the screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60 or for more information about bowel cancer screening in England please visit NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bowel-cancer-screening/
For additional information about bowel cancer please see What Is Bowel Cancer? Leaflet from Bowel Cancer UK
Note: *From April 2021 the bowel cancer screening age was reduced to include those aged 50-59. This is being phased in over a four year period with those age 50 receiving kits in 2025.