Bowel cancer, which is the second biggest killer in terms of cancers (lung cancer is the top) could be on its way down as a new Government campaign is being launched in order to raise awareness of the disease and its symptoms. ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ will be going nationwide after a successful trial.
Anyone who notices blood in stools or suffers from loose stools for longer than three weeks are encouraged to talk to their GP at the earliest opportunity. If it can be spotted early, bowel cancer is treatable and the five year survival rates are at 90%. This can get as low as 6% if the diagnosis comes late however.
Bowel cancer is diagnosed in roughly 33,000 people each year in the UK, and there are 13,000 deaths. Most of these diagnoses are in those over 55, but the age range is increasing as the number of people diagnosed go up. If England can match the best European survival rates, then 1700 more lives could be saved each year.
The symptoms of bowel cancer, as well as loose or bloody stools, include lumps or pains in the abdomen, unexplained weight loss or feeling more tired than normal. Rather than ‘flushing away’ toilet worries, if people talk to their GP then people will face much smaller risks.
A trial of the campaign in the south of England saw a 48% increase in the number of patients over 50 talking to their GP about relevant symptoms. This works out to roughly one extra patient per week per GP practice. If this is extrapolated, then there could be an extra 100 colonoscopies per NHS trust, which would be 15,000 colonoscopy referrals nationwide.
Paul Burstow, the Care Services Minister, is aware that it can be embarrassing to talk about poo, but wants people to get over this and talk to someone medically qualified to help. By using a simple message about the key symptoms, then people should have the confidence to talk to their doctor and potentially save their own life. Then bowel cancer will not be the big trouble that it currently is.