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Government launches bowel cancer campaign

A government campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer.

The first campaign of its type in England - Be Clear on Cancer - says people should not ‘flush away’ their toilet worries.

It urges anyone who has blood in their stools or loose stools for more than three weeks to see their GP as soon as possible.

Bowel cancer affects 33,000 people every year in England and leads to 13,000 deaths, with most cases occurring in people over the age of 55. If spotted early, it is often treatable, with more than 90% of people diagnosed at an early stage surviving for at least five years. However, this figure drops to just 6% if people are diagnosed at a late stage.

The Government believes an extra 1,700 lives could be saved every year if England’s bowel cancer survival rates matched the best in Europe.

Other symptoms of bowel cancer can include a pain or lump in the abdomen, feeling more tired than usual and over a period of time, and unexplained weight loss.

In December, Professor Sir Mike Richards, the government’s national clinical director for cancer, wrote to NHS trusts telling them to prepare for an increase in referrals as a result of the campaign.

Government figures suggest it could lead to an extra 15,000 referrals for colonoscopies across England.

A colonoscopy involves using a camera to examine the lining of the bowel to assess any changes that may suggest cancer.

An average-sized NHS trust can expect to see an extra 100 colonoscopies as a result of the campaign. When the campaign was piloted in the South West and east of England last year, GPs saw the number of people over the age of 50 coming in with relevant symptoms increase by 48%. This is about one extra patient per GP practice per week.

Readers' comments (4)

  • I fully support this campaign as i work for Bowel cancer Screening However despite our Trust being warned several months ago that this was coming they have made no plans for the increase in workload at all. in fact they are just trying to ignore it!

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  • what is the point? if you have this screening then you need total body screening for cancer and all other diseases. furthermore, there are no longer enough resources to care for those already ill without going out looking for more cases.

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  • I was saddened to see the comment by Anonymous. I am 57, and have recently had the good fortune to have a colonoscopy. I was symptomatic with blood in my stool, referred under the "two week rule" and had 5 polyps, all removed at colonoscopy within a week of referral. I think it is brilliant that the government are raising awareness of bowel cancer. I work as pre-operative assesment nurse and see patients on a regular basis requiring major surgery for bowel cancer. Some are picked up on the over 60 screen but some have waited too long and ignored their symptoms. When I first discovered the blood my immediate reaction was to ignore it and hope that it would go away and I knew better.

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  • Anon 3 feb 3.35pm

    As Denise has explained screening for bowel cancer doesnt just pick up cancers it detects all sorts of bowel conditions including polyps which may go on to become cancers in the future. So colonoscopy can actually reduce your chance of getting a bowel cancer.

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