As July 2016 marks the ten year anniversary of the introduction of bowel cancer screening in the UK, Manchester resident, Jeff Tipton, is supporting a Public Health England campaign backed by Bowel Cancer UK, urging people to spread the word among their family, friends and colleagues to take part in screening.
Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer yet it’s a disease which is often overlooked and diagnosed too late. Every year over 41,000 people (one every 15 minutes) are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 16,200 people die of the disease.
The ten year milestone is being marked with the launch of the latest edition of PHE’s Health Matters for health professionals, which focuses on improving the prevention and detection of bowel cancer.
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (and its equivalent in each of the home nations) can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms when it is easier to treat. Since its launch 10 years ago, it has been proven to save lives. If you’re registered with a GP and aged 60-74 (50-74 in Scotland), you will receive a test in the post every two years. You carry out the simple test at home in private and it comes with step by step instructions. The test looks for hidden blood in your poo, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer.
Jeff has taken part in bowel cancer screening three times, his first couple of tests proved negative but then in 2012, he received a reply stating that his test had proved ‘unclear’, meaning that there was a possibility of blood in his sample. After further tests, the final one proved positive for blood in the sample, after which Jeff was given an appointment for a colonoscopy.
Jeff said, “I underwent the procedure the following week when it was discovered that I had a number of polyps in my bowel which were removed there and then. I was told that I would be contacted within 24 hours with the results of tests on the polyps, which was done. I was informed that the tests had proved negative for cancer and that I would, as a consequence, be taken off the Bowel Screening Programme and, instead, recalled in three years for another colonoscopy.”
“Last November, this took place when some more small polyps were discovered and again removed with the same result and I will now be recalled again in 2018.”
“Since 2012 I have become a volunteer speaker for Bowel Cancer UK, giving talks on bowel cancer awareness and, as a result, become more aware of all the facts and statistics surrounding the disease. I have learned that polyps can turn cancerous although less than 10 per cent do.”
“I don’t know if my polyps were in that 10 per cent of those that might develop into cancer but what I do know is that I shall be eternally grateful to the NHS Bowel Screening Programme for enabling me to do this simple test which, just possibly, may have saved my life.”
Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said, “Since bowel cancer screening was first introduced to the UK 10 years ago, it has had a huge impact on the outcome for patients as it is both preventing cancer from developing and detecting it earlier when easier to treat. I am regularly told by patients detected through screening how grateful they are that they took the test because, in their view, it has saved their life.”
Screening can have a huge impact on the outcome for patients, as it can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms, when it is easier to treat. In fact, taking part in bowel cancer screening is the best way to get diagnosed early. Sometimes it can prevent bowel cancer from developing in the first place by picking up non-cancerous growths (polyps) which could become cancerous in the future. Through screening, over 25,000 cases of bowel cancer have been detected in England alone since 2006 and over 81,000 advanced adenomas, which potentially could have become cancerous.
Whilst bowel cancer screening does save lives, unfortunately in many areas of England the uptake falls well short of the 58 per cent average, in some cases it is as low as 33 per cent. By not taking part in screening, thousands of people are missing out on the chance to detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat.
Deborah Alsina continued, “It’s fantastic that the Government has announced the introduction of the simpler and more accurate, Faecal Immunochemical test (FIT) in England as this has been shown to improve uptake by up to 10 per cent and even double uptake in some groups of previous non-responders. This provides us with a very real opportunity to save more lives in the future and so we look forward to continuing working with the Government, Public Heath England and NHS England on its introduction.”
Until FIT is introduced into England in 2018, Bowel Cancer UK would urge everyone to complete the existing test if received through the post, to help save lives.
Visit Bowel Cancer UK’s website to find out more: bowelcanceruk.org.uk.