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April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

Screening for Bowel Cancer can save lives but at the moment in some areas of the UK only a third of those who receive a test complete it, meaning thousands of people are missing out on the chance to detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat.

Bowel cancer, or Colorectal cancer as it is also known, is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK, with around 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year. It is a disease of the colon, large bowel or the rectum and affects approximately 1 in 17 people, most commonly in people over the age of 60 years. However, it can affect people of any age.

Paula Brayford

Paula Brayford – A Specialist Colorectal Nurse at SaTH

The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) is encouraging people eligible for screening to take the test so the cancer can be captured early and treated promptly.

Paula Brayford, Colorectal Clinical Nurse Specialist at SaTH, said: “Bowel cancer is the second largest cause of cancer deaths in the UK, but 90 per cent can be cured if spotted early enough. This is why in the UK we have a bowel cancer screening programme – to detect tiny pre-cancerous growths and early cancers.

“I have been working with bowel cancer patients in Shropshire for nearly 20 years and I have seen great progress in the way we treat bowel cancer – speedier access to diagnostic tests, improved surgical techniques, shorter hospital stays, more effective chemotherapy and more nursing and support services for patients living with cancer. However, one of the most exciting developments over the last few years is the work on trying to detect bowel cancer early and even prevent bowel cancers from developing in the first place. This is called bowel cancer screening.

“There are two methods of screening for bowel cancer. The first is regular FOBt (Faecal Occult Blood testing), which has been going for several years. This detects blood in the faeces which identifies people who may need further investigation. The screening test kit is sent out in the post every two years to people aged between 60 and 74-years-old.

Julie Powell

Julie Powell, a Colorectal Nurse Specialist, is asking people to keep an eye out for symptoms

If it does detect blood in the faeces, you may be invited for a camera test of the colonoscopy. Polyps can be removed before they progress to a cancer and if a cancer is found it can be treated.

“The second method of screening is currently being rolled out across Shropshire and is in addition to the FOBt. This is called Bowelscope and is aimed at 55-year-olds. It is a one off camera test of the lower bowel. The idea of this is also to detect polyps and remove them, so that they do not go on to develop into a cancer. Research suggests that this can reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 43% and the risk of individuals developing bowel cancer by 33%.

“Despite all of the evidence about the value of bowel cancer screening there is still a large proportion of people in Shropshire who do not take it up. We know that people don’t like talking about their bottoms or poo, but it really is a life-saver. For a few minutes of embarrassment, you can get reassurance and treatment if necessary.”

For more information, please visit the Bowel Cancer UK Website.