Local NHS urges more people to get screened for Bowel Cancer

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NHS Southend and NHS Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Groups will be supporting Bowel Cancer Awareness Month throughout April to encourage more people to be screened.

The latest figures available from Public Health England’s (PHE) show Southend-on-Sea at 53.9% of eligible people being screened (figure for 2018). This is below the regional average (60.0%) and below the national average (59.0%). PHE data shows it is 59.9% for CP&R (figure for 2018). Both these figures have remained similar for each of the last four years. This is thought to be due partly to a reluctance to follow the faecal testing process.

Bowel cancer is a common type of cancer in both men and women. About 1 in 20 people will get it during their lifetime and currently cancer affects more than 40,000 people a year in the UK. The campaign takes place throughout April and is aimed to highlight the importance of early diagnosis in tackling one of the most prominent forms of cancer.

More than half of cancers could be prevented by changes in peoples’ behaviours such as low fruit and vegetable intake and high intake of red and processed meat for bowel cancer. Smoking, poor diet, and physical inactivity all significantly increase the risk of cancer.

Tricia D’Orsi, Chief Nurse for NHS Southend and NHS Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “Colorectal cancer can be treated effectively if caught early enough and people can minimise the risk by following simple advice including diet and exercise. Those aged 60 and older will be automatically contacted about bowel cancer screening but if you have any symptoms or concerns, contact your GP straight away.” 

Symptoms can include:

  • persistent blood in the stools - that occurs for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit
  • a persistent change in your bowel habit – which usually means going more often, with looser stools
  • persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort – that's always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss

NHS bowel cancer screening is offered to all men and women aged 60 to 74 every 2 years. The test can be carried out in the privacy of your home, and involves the use of a Faecal Occult Blood Test, which tests bowel motions for tiny amounts of blood that are not visible to the eye. A sample kit is sent out to your home.

If the test is abnormal, you will usually be offered an appointment with a Specialist Nurse to discuss further investigations. Most people with an abnormal test result will not have bowel cancer, but they may have another medical reason for blood in the stools.

If you're unsure whether to see your GP, try the bowel cancer symptom checker.

Read more about NHS screening for bowel cancer.

Find out more on how to minimise the risk of bowel cancer here.