Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer and the latest available statistics show in a single year there were 1,368* recorded cases of the disease in Kent and Medway.
Yet, bowel cancer is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.
Throughout Bowel Cancer Awareness Month (April), Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance is spreading three simple messages:
- Look out for symptoms of bowel cancer.
- Return your bowel cancer screening test.
- Attend your colonoscopy appointment.
More than 90 per cent of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms:
- a persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos
- blood in the poo
- abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating
Although most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer, Dr Bana Haddad, Rochester GP and NHS Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance Lead for Personalised Care, said: “If someone you know is suffering from symptoms like blood in their poo or feels something is not right, please encourage them to contact their GP. It may be nothing but it could save their life.”
At the moment, everyone aged 60 to 74 and aged 56 is automatically sent a bowel cancer screening kit every two years.
The programme now also includes 56-year-olds. Eventually, everyone aged from 50 to 74 will be asked to take part.
Dr Faiza Khan, NHS Screening and Immunisation Lead for Kent and Medway, said: “It’s important to take part in bowel cancer screening. It’s simple to do.
“Most people get the all-clear, but we also pick up some cases that need further investigation. So, please, help us help you and return a sample when asked.”
After screening or to further investigate symptoms some people need a colonoscopy. It's very important to have this routine test when asked to, although most people who have a colonoscopy won’t have bowel cancer.
The routine procedure involves putting a long thin flexible tube (with a camera on the end) up your bottom to get a clear view inside your bowel.
During a colonoscopy, if the doctor sees anything that needs further investigation, photographs and samples (biopsies) can be taken and simple polyps, which could turn cancerous in the future, can be removed.
Mr Pradeep Basnyat, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon working at the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, said:
“Colonoscopy is a safe, effective and essential test to find large bowel cancer and treatment of bowel polyps. This is performed routinely and safely. Thousands of colonoscopies are performed every month in Kent and Medway.”
‘help us, help you’
If you are worried about a family history of bowel cancer or have any of the symptoms listed above, speak to a GP for advice.
Dr Rakesh Koria, Thanet GP and NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group Cancer Lead, said: “If bowel cancer is detected in its earliest stage, either through symptoms, screening or a colonoscopy nearly everybody is treated successfully.
“That is good news but we need your help by checking for symptoms, returning your screening tests and attending a colonoscopy if asked. Please, help us, help you.”
* Source: COSD, CancerStats2