Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

All this month health bosses in the Midlands are raising awareness of bowel cancer as many people don't realise the disease as being one of the top three cancers in women and it's the third most common cancer in the UK - about 40,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK.

BOWEL CANCER RATES in 60 to 69 year olds went up by more than 12 per cent in England from 2006 to 2008, according to the latest figures from Cancer Research UK.

The increase in cases comes shortly after the introduction of population bowel screening in England began to be rolled out nationally in 2006 for men and women aged 60 to 69. Screening is now offered to men and women from ages 60 to 74 in England.

Before the screening programme, bowel cancer rates in this age group were fairly stable, increasing by no more than 2.1 per cent in any two-year period in the last decade. Rates started to increase during 2007 – up by six per cent in 60-69 year olds in England compared with 2006.

Bowel cancer screening uses the faecal occult blood test (FOBT) which is mailed to people to carry out at home. People post a series of small stool samples to a lab to be tested for traces of hidden blood which could be an early sign of bowel cancer.

When bowel cancer is found at the earliest stage, there is an excellent chance of survival and more than 90 per cent of people survive the disease at least five years. But if the tumour is advanced when it is diagnosed, fewer than one in 20 people survive this long.

Catherine Thomson, Cancer Research UK’s head of statistics, said:

“These figures are evidence that the bowel cancer screening programme is helping to find cases of bowel cancer sooner.   

“Without the screening programme it’s likely that many of these cancers would not have been found for another few years, by which time they would be harder to treat.

“This test can help find bowel cancer at an early stage, before it causes noticeable symptoms.

“It’s expected that when all of the national screening programmes across the UK have been up and running for a couple of years, that similar results will be seen for the whole of the UK. And hopefully the screening programme will soon reduce the number of deaths from bowel cancer.”

People can reduce the risk of developing the disease by keeping a healthy weight, being physically active, eating a healthy diet high in fibre and low in red and processed meat, cutting down on alcohol and not smoking.