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Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK and is diagnosed in around 41,000 people a year. Bowel Cancer UK has made April Bowel Cancer Awareness Month to help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease and focus on the importance of screenings.
To coincide with this year’s campaign, experts are warning that people under 50 do not act on bowel cancer symptoms quickly enough and 20% have to visit a GP five times before being referred to a specialist.
And now, a new risk assessment tool - which is based on research by University of Exeter and was funded by the Department of Health – is being made available to GPs via the British Journal of General Practice website to help calculate the risk of a serious disease as a percentage.
Those found to be at 3% risk or more of bowel cancer should be referred for an urgent colonoscopy, while those between 1% and 3% will be recommended for a faecal calprotectin test, to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
While 95% of bowel cancer cases occur in people over 50, more than 2,500 people under the age of 50 in the UK are diagnosed with the disease every year - a 45% rise since 2004.
If you’re registered with a GP and aged 60-74 (50-74 in Scotland), you will receive a free NHS bowel cancer screening test in the post every two years. But experts say when it comes to those under 50, people do not act on their symptoms quickly enough.
Professor Justin Stebbing, Consultant Oncologist, Imperial College and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, bowel cancer specialist at Leaders in Oncology Care (LOC) and one of London Medical Concierge’s network of doctors, comments: “Bowel cancer is one of the highest cancer killers in the UK, so being screened for the disease is essential. I strongly believe that we should be urging people to act more urgently when warning signs and worrying symptoms for bowel cancer occur. And we should take responsibility as a medical profession for referring patients reporting “red-flag” symptoms for a colonoscopy.
“For those over 60, I would urge everyone who receives their free bowel cancer screening test in the post to make sure they complete it and send it back. The test can detect the disease early and before any symptoms have appeared, making it easier to treat. Currently only 9% of patients are diagnosed in the early stages of bowel cancer and this can be due to people not using or completing their screening tests.
“If you have any of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer and your last test came back as clear, I would advise visiting your GP as soon as possible, as the disease may develop in the two years between your screenings.”
Kirsty Ettrick, CEO and founder of London Medical Concierge, adds: “At London Medical Concierge we are supporting Bowel Cancer Awareness Month as we understand the importance of being screened to catch the disease earlier and improving the chance of survival. Alarmingly, a third of people aren’t completing their tests and are being diagnosed later. We are supporting this opportunity to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer, reduce stigma associated with the condition and reinforce just how important a screening can be.”
For more information please visit: https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/about-us/bowel-cancer-awareness-month/