April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and Humber and North Yorkshire Cancer Alliance, which works to improve cancer services, care and outcomes across Humber and North Yorkshire, is calling on local people to recognise the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer and to take up screening opportunities if invited.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK yet data shows fewer than four in 10 people are diagnosed at an early stage when it is easier to treat, and one in three people who are sent a bowel cancer screening test in England do not complete it.
Dr Dan Cottingham, Cancer Research UK GP Lead, Humber and North Yorkshire Cancer Alliance, said: “Detecting bowel cancer at an early stage can make you nine times more likely to be successfully treated. It’s therefore important that people recognise the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer and they take up screening when invited.
“With almost 43,000 people diagnosed in the UK each year, knowing the signs and symptoms to look for and speaking to your GP could make a big difference and lead to bowel cancer being caught earlier when it’s easier to treat.”
Symptoms of bowel cancer include:
- changes in your poo or constipation
- needing to poo more or less than usual, blood in your poo
- bleeding from your bottom of feeling like you need to poo even if you have just been to the toilet
- stomach pain
- losing weight without trying
- feeling very tired for no reason
Lindsey, from Hull, was 48 when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2021 after being admitted to hospital with severe abdominal pain and a perforated bowel.
Lindsey said: “I’d been experiencing bowel symptoms that were unusual for me for a few weeks, which I put down to stress. However, during March and April 2021 the symptoms I was experiencing suddenly got worse and I started to develop a feeling of pressure and an ache in my back.
“I tried different medications prescribed by my GP, but nothing seemed to help. I was in so much pain I knew something wasn’t right and blood tests eventually showed some abnormalities.”
That weekend, before Lindsey had chance to speak to her GP about her results, she was admitted to hospital with a perforated bowel. She had urgent surgery and started chemotherapy a few weeks later. Lindsey’s chemotherapy successfully reduced her tumour and in December 2021 she took the decision to have further surgery to remove her colon to reduce the risk of her cancer returning.
Lindsey added: “I am living proof that if something doesn’t feel right it’s so important to speak to your GP and to make sure that all the necessary checks are carried out. If a problem is caught early your chances of making a full recovery can be much better.”
Gary, a Royal Navy veteran from East Yorkshire, was diagnosed with bowel cancer following routine screening in 2018, despite having no symptoms and feeling fit and well in himself. Following surgery and chemotherapy to treat his cancer Gary is now urging others to take up their screening.
“Getting that letter through the post inviting me for the screening was like winning the lottery,” Gary said. “I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life. If you’re asked to take part in screening, get over the embarrassment and just do it. I thought I was fit and healthy, I had no symptoms at all when I had my test, but bowel screening saved my life. If I can help to save just one other person by telling my story, it will be worth it.”
Dr Cottingham said: “Your next poo could save your life. If you receive an NHS bowel screening kit, put it by the loo, don’t put it off. One small sample can detect signs of bowel cancer before you know anything is wrong.
For more information on bowel cancer, visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/bowel-cancer