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We need to get over our fear of describing bowel cancer symptoms

Published on 07 July 2016 back to previous

Bowel Cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK today and is a significant problem in world health. However, like so many cancers, if it is discovered at an early stage it can be treated successfully in over 90 per cent of cases.  Yet, in spite of this, bowel cancer claims a life every half an hour

Television commercials try to cajole people out of their embarrassment at discussing this area of the body, giving the symptoms of the disease and even the words to use to describe to the GP what is being experienced, yet it seems that it is still a subject about which many people are reluctant to talk. At one time, the words ‘breast cancer’ passed very few lips but, with the help of the breast cancer charities and thescreening programme, thousands of people are now diagnosed early and have a good outcome.

There are few taboo subjects left but discussing the workings of the bowel – even with a doctor – is too much for some people. Late diagnosis explains the current high mortality rate from this type of cancer.

The Bowel Cancer Screening Programme goes a long way towards combating the embarrassment.  It is sent out in the post and completed at home: you are asked to provide three tiny stool samples.  However, even this easy test has seen only a 60 per cent take-up.

There is now a more accurate and even more simple test - the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) - which only requires one sample. It is hoped that this will encourage more people to take part. 

Mark Flannagan, CEO of Beating Bowel Cancer said:  “At the moment, only 6 in 10 people who are sent the current test complete it.  We want to see a significant increase in the numbers of people being screened, so they are more in line with breast and cervical cancer screening programmes.  Introducing the new FIT test is an excellent move in the right direction and it should be rolled out as soon as possible.”

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