Lincolnshire bowel cancer awareness campaign launched

THE government is today (Monday) launching a new Be Clear on Cancer campaign across Lincolnshire to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer.

Public awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer is low. But spotting the signs early and getting medical advice could save people’s lives.

Bowel cancer affects 33,000 people every year in England with the majority of cases occurring in people over the age of 55. It affects both men and women and is the second biggest cancer killer, responsible for more than 13,000 deaths a year. In 2008 there were around 585 cases of bowel cancer in Lincolnshire.

Featuring real GPs, the Be Clear on Cancer bowel cancer campaign will encourage people who have had blood in their poo or loose poo for more than three weeks to see their doctor.

The new adverts aim to make people aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer and make it easier for them to discuss this with their GP.

If England’s bowel cancer survival rates matched the best in Europe an additional 1,700 lives would be saved every year.

Bowel cancer survivor Val Harvey, 74, from Stamford, knows only too well how important is it to go to your doctor as soon as you notice any changes in your bowel habits.

Five years ago, Val, a retired mental health social worker, had noticed that her need to get to the loo was becoming increasingly urgent, but dismissed it as an ageing problem. So it wasn’t until she noticed blood on the toilet paper that she booked an appointment with her GP, who on examination, found ‘something there’. Soon after she was sent for scans at the hospital, where she was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

She said: “When I noticed the blood, I knew something wasn’t right and wanted to get it looked at straight away. I was aware of bowel cancer and some of the symptoms, but you just push that to the back of your mind. It wasn’t until I got my diagnosis that it really sunk in. In hindsight, I should have gone to my GP when my bowel habits changed, when the polyp that was found could have been removed before it became cancerous.

“I was lucky as I went to my doctor straight away and got an early diagnosis, which meant that my treatment was successful and the cancer was beaten. People may feel embarrassed talking about their symptoms, but remember your doctor has seen it all before. Don’t die of embarrassment!”

Dr Tony Hill, Director of Public Health for NHS Lincolnshire, said: “With bowel cancer claiming 220 lives in Lincolnshire, this campaign is instrumental in raising awareness of the early signs and symptoms and potentially saving hundreds of lives. I urge anyone who is worried about their symptoms to speak to their GP straight away. The message is clear - the earlier bowel cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Your symptoms may be nothing serious, but it is better to have them checked out early to be sure.”

More than 90 per cent of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage survive for at least five years compared with only six per cent of those diagnosed at a late stage.

For further information about the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer visit www.nhs.uk/bowelcancer