Nearly half of people living in the North West ignore the bowel cancer screening test – people’s lives are at risk

On average only 53% of people living in the North West who are sent the bowel cancer screening test for free in the post actually complete it. Bowel Cancer UK, the UK’s leading bowel cancer research charity, is encouraging people living in the region to take part in the screening programme as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April. 

In April alone across the UK, nearly 3,500 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer and over 1,300 people will die of the disease. It’s the nation’s second biggest cancer killer, however it shouldn’t be. It’s treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. 

Uptake rates for bowel cancer screening are low with huge variations across the North West. The bottom five areas that need to see the most improvement are Central Manchester (40%), North Manchester (42%), South Manchester (44%), Liverpool (47%) and Knowsley (48%). The top five areas with the highest uptake are Eastern Cheshire (61%), Cumbria (60%), West Cheshire (59%), Fylde & Wyre (58%) and Southport & Formby (57%). 

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms when it is easier to treat and a greater chance of survival. If you’re registered with a GP and aged 60-74, you will receive a test in the post every two years. You carry out the simple test at home in private and it comes with step by step instructions. The test looks for hidden blood in your poo, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer. 

In 2018, England will replace the current screening test with a simpler and more accurate test – Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). FIT is a more sensitive test than the current one, and has the potential to detect more cancers and pre-cancerous polyps as well as increasing screening participation.

Deborah Alsina MBE, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, says: “It’s quite simple, bowel cancer screening saves lives. It’s predicted that even using the current test, the screening programme will save over 2,000 lives each year by 2025. I would encourage everyone who’s over 60 to take the test, and for those who are younger to encourage their loved ones over 60 to complete it. It could save yours or your loved ones life.”

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of taking part in bowel cancer screening. Bowel Cancer UK’s award-winning health promotion team is looking for work places and community groups in the local area to host a talk about screening in April. The 30 minute talk is delivered by a trained health promotion volunteer, who often has a personal experience of bowel cancer. 

The programme, which was awarded a Health and Wellbeing Award by the Royal Society of Public Health, stresses the importance of those who are of screening age to take the bowel cancer screening test, raises awareness of the disease as well as good bowel health, and highlights the symptoms and risks. 

If you’re interested in hosting a talk at your work place, community group and any other place that has an existing group or charity, visit bowelcanceruk.org.uk/bookatalk or email volunteer@bowelcanceruk.org 

To find out more about bowel cancer and screening, visit: bowelcanceruk.org.uk 


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