With Deborah James’ bowel cancer story touching the nation, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance is asking people across the region not to delay bowel cancer screening, with the clear message that early diagnosis saves lives.
Whilst West Yorkshire and Harrogate exceed the national response rate target for bowel cancer screening by 8%, the Cancer Alliance says that there is still work to be done with 32% of people invited to complete their bowel cancer screening still to reach.
Bowel cancer, the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, can be successfully treated in more than nine out of 10 people if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
People aged 60 to 74 are invited to complete a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) and return via the post every two years. The FIT test identifies hidden blood in poo and can indicate potential bowel cancer which will then be further investigated.
Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK, with more than 2,600 new cases diagnosed annually in people under the age of 50.
Since receiving her bowel cancer diagnosis in 2016, Deborah James – under her social media name of Bowel Babe, has shared her journey and has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the condition, including the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer to look out for.
Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
Unexplained weight loss
Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
A pain or lump in your tummy
The Cancer Alliance is encouraging people of all ages, regardless of the results of your FIT test, to contact your GP practice if you are experiencing the above signs and symptoms, to rule out or further investigate any causes for concern.
Bowel Cancer Screening - from the NHS
NHS bowel cancer screening checks if you could have bowel cancer. It's available to everyone aged 60 or over and 56 year olds.
You use a home test kit, called a faecal immunochemical test (FIT), to collect a small sample of poo and send it to a lab. This is checked for tiny amounts of blood.
Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are growths in the bowel. They are not cancer, but may turn into cancer over time.
If the test finds anything unusual, you might be asked to have further tests to confirm or rule out cancer.
Always see a GP if you have symptoms of bowel cancer at any age, even if you have recently completed a NHS bowel cancer screening test kit – do not wait to have a screening test.
Why screening is offered
Regular NHS bowel cancer screening reduces the risk of dying from bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer is the 4th most common type of cancer. Screening can help find it at an early stage, when it's easier to treat.
How to get a home test kit
Everyone aged 60 to 74 who is registered with a GP and lives in England is automatically sent a bowel cancer screening kit every twi years. The programme includes 56 year olds.
Make sure your GP practice has your correct address so your kit is posted to the right place.
If you're 75 or over, you can ask for a kit every 2 years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.
If you're worried about a family history of bowel cancer or have any symptoms, speak to a GP for advice.
Your test result
Your result should be posted to you within two weeks of sending off your kit.
There are 2 types of result.
No further tests needed - which means no blood was found in your poo sample, or only a tiny amount was found. You do not need to do anything at this time. You'll be invited to do another screening test in two years (if you'll still be under 75 by then)
This is not a guarantee that you do not have bowel cancer. See a GP if you have or get symptoms of bowel cancer, even if you have already done a screening kit.
About 98 in 100 people do not need further tests.
Further tests needed - This result means blood was found in your poo sample. You do not necessarily have bowel cancer (the blood could be the result of something like piles) but you'll be offered an appointment to talk about having another test called a colonoscopy to look for the cause.
A colonoscopy is where a thin tube with a camera inside is passed into your bottom to look for signs of bowel cancer.
About two in 100 people are asked to have further tests.
Risks of screening
No screening test is 100% reliable.
There's a chance a cancer could be missed, meaning you might be falsely reassured.
There's also a small risk that the colonoscopy test you might have if screening finds something unusual could damage your bowel, but this is rare.