Southampton doctors are raising awareness about the importance of screening for bowel cancer during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month this April.
In the UK, from the age of 60 until your 74th birthday, a bowel screening kit is sent to your home automatically, every two years. You don’t need to have experienced any symptoms of bowel cancer, the test picks up early signs of cancer that may otherwise, go undetected. It is this early diagnosis that has proven to be the life-saving key to bowel cancer treatment.
Last year, 55% of the population eligible for screening in Southampton returned their sample kit for testing, this is compared to the national average of 59%. Southampton has one of the lowest screening rates in Hampshire and Dorset.
Treatment for early signs of bowel cancer has been very effective. With more than 28,000 people in Southampton being eligible for this test, your local NHS is encouraging you to consider the potential benefits of returning your sample sooner, rather than later.
Dr Mark Kelsey, local GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We don’t like to talk about our poo and bowel movements and some people may find this particular test unpleasant to perform, but my message to anyone who receives a test kit in the post is that cancer treatment is much more successful if we catch it early. Quite simply, completing the sample could save your life.”
“As with all screening offered by the NHS, it is completely up to you if you wish to take part or not. As a health professional, I would ask you to consider the risks and the benefits and then decide what is right for you and your family. Cancer treatment can be very effective with more people surviving cancer than ever before and much of this is thanks to the screening programmes on offer.”
Most people will carry out the test, return their sample in the post and within two weeks, be told that there were no signs detected. It will be another two years before you are asked to carry out the test again.
For others however, the test may find blood in the sample in which case, you will be invited to a local screening centre to talk about your results. This does not mean you definitely have cancer; the bleeding could be caused by a non-cancerous growth or another health problem. You will be offered more tests to find out what is causing the bleeding.
Being aware of the key symptoms and talking to your GP if things don’t feel right can also help increase chances of an early diagnosis.
The symptoms of bowel cancer can include:
- Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
- A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in your tummy
Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer, other health problems can cause similar symptoms. But if you have one or more of these symptoms, or if things just don’t feel right, see your GP.