As part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, doctors are urging people in Luton and Bedfordshire not to let fear or embarrassment stop them from seeking help.  Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

As part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, doctors are urging people in Luton and Bedfordshire not to let fear or embarrassment stop them from seeking help.

Throughout April the symptoms and early signs of bowel cancer, along with the importance of early diagnosis, are being highlighted in a national campaign.

Dr Saheli Chaudhury, GP and cancer lead for Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said:

“Unfortunately, this disease involves two things that people don’t like talking about – cancer and poo.

“They are frightened by cancer and embarrassed at having to talk about going to the toilet. But delaying seeing a doctor because of fear or embarrassment can seriously affect the chances of early detection and the disease being treated successfully.

“Sadly, this can and does cost people their lives.”

The main symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Blood in your poo
  • A change in your bowel habits, such as going to the toilet more or less frequently
  • Pain, discomfort or bloating in the lower stomach
  • Sudden unexplained weight loss

Having one or more of these symptoms does not always indicate cancer as they can also be caused by a number of other illnesses, but you do need to talk to your doctor.

“Every day GPs listen to patients describing bowel and stomach problems, so there is no need for anyone to feel embarrassed. And quite often we can put a patient’s mind at ease there and then.”

Nine out of 10 cases of bowel cancer are found in older people

Nine out of 10 cases of bowel cancer are found in older people, so the campaign is also promoting the NHS’s home screening programme. Dr Anitha Bolanthur, Luton Clinical Commissioning Group’s cancer lead, stresses the importance of taking part in the programme. She said:

“Everyone who is 60 years old and over receives a home testing kit every two years, which involves taking a poo sample and sending it for analysis. Many people find the idea of doing this unpleasant, but it can help achieve an early diagnosis and therefore significantly increase the chances of survival.

“The survival rate for bowel cancer in the UK has more than doubled in the last 40 years*, owing to early diagnosis and better treatment.

“Don’t be shy, embarrassed or afraid – if you have any bowel symptoms that you are worried about, make an appointment to see your GP.”

For more information visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bowel-cancer/.