Early bowel cancer diagnosis saves lives

In June 2015 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellent (NICE) set out new draft guidelines for GPs advising that the number of people referred for cancer tests should be almost doubled.

The draft guidelines are in the form of a table which links symptoms to cancer types and makes recommendations to GPs regarding appropriate referral procedures where cancer is suspected. These can be found on the NICE website.

In 2017 an update specific to colorectal cancer was published for GPs on the use of faecal immunochemical tests (FIT). This recommended the use of FI testing where patients present with unexplained symptoms but where there is no rectal bleeding and they do not match the criteria for the suspected cancer pathway.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

9 in 10 people will survive when it’s caught at stage one for 5 years or more. This is among the very best of any cancer statistic.

We are committed to reducing the number of people dying from bowel cancer. Since early diagnosis and treatment can be the difference between life and death, we believe raising awareness of the symptoms no-one should ignore is as important as the research we fund.

Learn your bowel cancer BCA – it could save your life!

While the majority of bowel cancer cases occur in people aged 50 plus, it can strike at a much younger age, so everyone needs to be aware of the signs and symptoms and know what BCA stands for:

B is for bleeding from the bottom. Always check after using the toilet.

C is for a change in your normal bowel habits that lasts for more than 3 weeks

A is for abdominal pain, acute tiredness and/or a lump in your tummy

If you experience any of these symptoms over 3 or more weeks, speak to your GP

Your GP should be aware of the NICE guidelines referred to in the introduction and use them to make a decision on a referral for further tests.

Bowel cancer screening saves lives 

The NHS currently offers bowel cancer screening to people aged 60-74.  In 2018 the NHS announced that the lower age range would be reduced to 50 which will align England and Wales with Scotland.

If and when you are sent a kit, do take action. Screening can detect the early signs of cancers before symptoms present and when treatment is most likely to be effective. Currently response rates are too low at 50%. We urge anyone sent a kit not to ignore this opportunity.

This test could identify any cancer when surgery can be highly effective and the chance of a complete cure is very high.

Over 74? It is possible to request a kit by calling Freephone 0800 707 6060 from England and 0800 0121 833 in Scotland

NHS information on bowel cancer screening

NHS information on bowel cancer symptoms

Too young for the current bowel cancer screening programme?

If you fall outside the lower age range of the current NHS test, or have concerns about your bowel health in between the regular screening programme, there are other tests that can be bought over the counter.

Bowel & Cancer Research works closely with Measure Bowel Health, developed by Oxford Mestar. The company has commercialised from its roots within the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford. We have worked with Oxford Mestar on usability testing of the kit and the information for customers.

For further information about Measure and the test visit www.measurebowelhealth.com. For every test purchased, Oxford Mestar donates 50p to Bowel & Cancer Research to further high quality medical research into bowel cancer and other bowel diseases.

Reducing your risk of bowel cancer

The link between healthy living and reducing the risk of cancer is becoming increasingly acknowledged. Weight and alcohol are risk factors not only for bowel and many other cancers but heart disease and diabetes too. In fact there is evidence now to show that improvements in lifestyle could prevent up to half of bowel cancer cases.

You can help protect yourself by:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in fibre and low in fat
  • Reducing your intake of fats, red meat and processed foods
  • Increasing your consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Monitoring the amount of alcohol you drink

Find out more about lifestyle and bowel cancer