Health chiefs across West Lancashire, Southport and Formby are urging everyone aged 60–74 not to ignore their bowel cancer screening kit when it arrives in the post.
On average, only around half of the people living in the North West, who are posted out a free bowel cancer screening test, complete and return it. Both NHS West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Southport and Formby CCG are backing Bowel Cancer UK, (the UK’s leading bowel cancer research charity), in their campaign to encourage people in the region to take part in the screening programme as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
In April alone across the UK, nearly 3,500 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer and over 1,300 people will die of the disease. It’s the nation’s second biggest cancer killer, however it shouldn’t be. It’s treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early, by knowing what symptoms to look out for, residents can ensure that they visit their GP as soon as something is not right. The symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- Bleeding from the 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
The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms when it is easier to treat and a greater chance of survival. If you’re registered with a GP and aged 60-74, 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.
In Lancashire, the Lancashire Bowel Cancer Screening Programme is going one step further, by working with GP practices in the region to identify those patients that have been sent a bowel cancer screening kit, but have not yet completed it. They then visit these patients, identify what their reservations are and work with them to ensure that they do complete and return their kit.
Sadiq Patel, a community engagement officer for the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, said: “Working with GP practices, they identify those patients who have not responded and are invited for a 15-minute appointment to see the bowel cancer team.
“After explaining the importance of completing the kit and showing them a short video, the patients then feel comfortable in completing the kit and if required we order a new kit for them. This has been a huge success.
“By doing this, we hope to increase the number of early stage diagnosis, where treatment options and survival rates are greatly improved.”
Dr Jack Kinsey, a GP in Parbold and GP clinical lead for cancer at NHS West Lancashire CCG, said: “The Lancashire Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, offers vital support to our GPs and provides such an important, reassuring role for our patients at a higher risk of bowel cancer.
“In West Lancashire, there is a greater number of patients presenting at their GP when their cancer is at an advanced third or fourth stage, by which point the treatment options and outcomes are more limited and our aim is to identify those patients earlier, when there is more we can do in the way of help and support.
“If bowel cancer is identified at an earlier stage, which the screening kit can do, then the survival rate for patients is greatly improved.
“If you are aged 60-74 and you receive this kit in the post, please do not hesitate, send it back as soon as possible.”
In 2018, England will replace the current screening test with a simpler and more accurate test – Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). FIT is a more sensitive test than the current one, and has the potential to detect more cancers and pre-cancerous polyps as well as increasing screening participation.
Deborah Alsina MBE, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, says: “It’s quite simple, bowel cancer screening saves lives. It’s predicted that even using the current test, the screening programme will save over 2,000 lives each year by 2025. I would encourage everyone who’s over 60 to take the test, and for those who are younger, to encourage their loved ones over 60 to complete it. It could save yours or your loved one’s life.”
Dr Rob Caudwell, a GP and chair at NHS Southport and Formby CCG, said: “For many people, the thought of providing a poo sample can be an embarrassing prospect, for this reason they choose not to complete their life saving screening kit or put it off.
“However, I can’t stress enough just how important it is not to ignore this kit. The screening kit can detect early signs of bowel cancer, that are undetectable to the naked eye and if diagnosed early enough, at a first or even second stage, the outcomes for patients significantly improve.”