Did you know you can test for bowel cancer at home?

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North Lincolnshire Council is supporting Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April and is raising awareness of bowel cancer screening at home for men and women over 60 years-old.

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month aims to raise awareness of bowel cancer screening to improve early diagnosis of the disease.

Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer but it is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early.

Nearly 98 per cent of people will survive bowel cancer for five years or more if detected at the earliest stage compared with seven per cent diagnosed at the latest.

About one in 20 people will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime, with more than 80 per cent of cancers detected at 60 years of age or older.

In North Lincolnshire there is an average of 125 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year, with slightly higher rates amongst men than women, with the risk increasing with age.

In 2015/16 in North Lincolnshire just over 60 per cent of eligible 60 to 74 year-olds attended screening compared to 57.9 per cent nationally. Whilst this is an improvement on previous years, take up has not changed significantly since 2013.

The bowel cancer campaign aims to increase the take up of the screening.

If you are registered with a GP and aged 60 to 74, you will receive a free NHS bowel cancer screening test in the post every two years. You collect three samples of poo, over a maximum of two weeks and send it back in the envelope provided. You carry out the simple test at home in private and it comes with clear step by step instructions. The test looks for hidden blood in your poo, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer.

Screening can detect bowel cancer early before any symptoms appear, when it is easier to treat. It can also prevent bowel cancer from developing in the first place by picking up non-cancerous growths (polyps) which could become cancerous in the future.

Counillor Carl Sherwood, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “The earlier that bowel cancer is detected and treated, the better the outcome. The best survival rates are found through the bowel cancer screening programme or the GP referral route. It is extremely important, if you are aged between 60 and 74, that you do the bowel screening test at home. If you are not in this age bracket, but know someone who is; make sure you encourage them to do the test.

“Normally people have to visit their GP or hospital to have tests done, but with the bowel cancer screening test, you can do it in the comfort of your own home. We understand some people may be hesitant or think they are wasting time having the test done, but the message we want to get out there is that it is better to be safe than sorry.”

The symptoms of bowel cancer include:

Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo

A change in bowel habit lasting three weeks or more

Unexplained weight loss

Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason

A pain or lump in your tummy

Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer. Other health problems can cause similar symptoms. But if you have one or more of these, or if things just don’t feel right, go see your GP.