MILLIONS of Brits have been urged to take up a rapid test to see if they have bowel cancer.
The Health Secretary has called on men over 60 to make sure they have the life-saving checkups.
It couldn't be easier – with a home testing kit on offer, or use of dozens of Community Diagnostic Centres.
The home test it called the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), it is automatically sent to people over 60-74 every two years.
It's so simple to use, with patients asked for more tests if doctors need to probe further.
Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year and 16,500 die from it.
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It one of the most common cancers in England, but only one in 20 Brits would go to the doctor if they had symptoms of bowel cancer.
These include constipation, blood in faeces, stomach cramps, excess gas and bloating.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I know all too well how devastating this disease is having lost my dad to bowel cancer 10 years ago. If he had been diagnosed earlier, he may still be with us today.
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“As well as launching a 10-year Cancer Plan to deliver world-leading cancer care, I want to see more eligible people coming forward for bowel cancer screening, which saves at least 2,500 lives every year.
“We have already introduced a new home testing kit for those over 60 to make it easier and more convenient to get checked and screening services have recovered after the pandemic.
"This Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, I urge you to take up the screening offer and speak to your GP if you have health concerns.”
Bowel cancer is most common in people aged over 60, which is why the NHS offers screening to check for signs every two years to those aged 60-74.
This reduces the risk of dying from bowel cancer by at least 25 per cent and saves at least 2,500 lives a year.
Men have been found to be much less likely to take up screening offers, but are more likely to be diagnosed and die from the disease.
Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer, said: “Bowel cancer can develop without people being aware of it, so sending in a screening test could make all the difference if it means your bowel cancer can be picked up at an early stage when it is most likely to be curable.
“The NHS FIT kits can be done quickly and conveniently at home and really could save your life.”
“I have always had a tendency to have stomach upsets but they reached a point where they became more frequent. And the abdominal pain increased to several times a week. So when the bowel cancer screening kit arrived on my doorstep, I returned it the very next day. It’s such a simple test and presented in such a way that it is easy and “clean” to perform.
“I was surprised when I had the letter confirming the test was positive and inviting me for a follow up colonoscopy. The doctor took small samples of tumour tissue – it didn’t hurt at all! And the doctor told me straight away I had cancer. I only had to wait six days for the test results and it was confirmed to be malignant cancer.
“Since then I have had half of my large intestine removed and had open abdominal surgery as the tumour was attached to other tissues. It had spread to my lymph nodes as well so I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. I am currently undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy to help prevent the cancer spreading.
“I am so grateful that I received such prompt treatment by the NHS. The moral of my story is “listen” to your body, you will know if your bowel function is not right. If so, don’t make excuses and explain it away to yourself – find out what is wrong. Please don’t be shy, send back your bowel cancer screening test as soon as you can, it really could save your life.”
Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “Bowel cancer remains the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, and it’s shocking that the many people wouldn’t visit their GP if they had symptoms.
“Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer but this drops significantly as the disease develops. Knowing the key symptoms and visiting your GP if you have any of them, or if things don’t feel right, can help increase the chances of an early diagnosis.
"Also if you are of eligible age and receive a bowel screening kit in the post please take part.
"Bowel screening programmes are by far the best route to early diagnosis. Screening can detect bowel cancer before symptoms appear, so don’t ignore the test as it could save your life.”
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