Bowel Cancer Awareness Month will take place throughout April. The campaign is aimed at men and women of all ages, and their friends and families, to raise awareness of bowel health and the symptoms of bowel cancer. It is also aimed at men and women aged 60-74, to encourage them to use and return the screening test kit.
Bowel cancer screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms. Around 2 in 100 people will receive an abnormal result. This means that some blood was detected in the sample. If you receive an abnormal result it’s important to remember that the screening tests for blood, not cancer, which can occur for a variety of reasons. In this situation you will be referred to a specialist screening practitioner to discuss further investigation. Remember if it is cancer the earlier it is found, the more likely treatment is to be effective, which is why it is important people are aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer and make sure that they return the test.
How does the screening programme work?
If you are eligible, and screening for your age group is available in your area, you will receive an invitation letter and an information leaflet explaining the programme. This is sent according to your date of birth, not the year you were born. About a week later you will be sent a Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test kit (which tests poo for hidden blood) with instructions for doing the test at home. As long as you are eligible you will receive a repeat invitation and screening test kit every two years.
Who gets screened?
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offers screening to men and women between the ages of 60-74 every two years. Anyone over the age of 74 can request a screening kit by calling the programme’s Freephone helpline on 0800 707 6060 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm).
However, it is really important that people of all ages are aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.
In between screening tests
Screening doesn’t stop bowel cancer occurring, but it can catch it early meaning it is much more treatable. However it is also important to be aware of the symptoms that could indicate bowel cancer and what you can do to reduce your risk.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
- a change in your bowel habit lasting three weeks or more
- unexplained weight loss
- extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- a pain or lump in your tummy.
Go and see your doctor without delay if you notice anything that is not normal for you.
You can find further information about bowel cancer at the following websites: