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Aged 60 or over? Make sure you take the bowel cancer screening test

April is bowel cancer awareness month and this year the main focus is on increased screening. If you are aged 60 to 74 you will be sent a home testing kit every two years which can detect bowel cancer early on, before the symptoms begin to show.

As part of this campaign, doctors at NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are advising local residents to take the bowel cancer screening test and to be aware of the symptoms which can occur.

There are around 34,000 new cases of bowel cancer each year and it is the fourth most common cancer in England. This is why it is important to understand the symptoms and what you need to look out for.

The majority of people who suffer from bowel cancer experience the following:

  • A change in bowel habit – going to the toilet more often, with looser stools
  • Blood in your stools
  • Experiencing pain or bloating caused by eating

If the symptoms of bowel cancer persist for more than four weeks, visit your GP to see whether any tests are necessary. Also, if you are over the age of 74 and experiencing any symptoms of bowel cancer, you can request a free screening kit by calling 0800 707 60 60.

Dr Neil Smith GP lead for cancer commissioning for Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) said: “Bowel cancer screening saves lives which is why I urge anyone between the ages of 60 and 74 to take advantage of the free tests which are sent out every two years. At the moment, only 58% of those in the UK who receive a screening kit actually use it.

“Thousands of people are missing out on detecting bowel cancer at an early stage when it is easier to treat and the chance of survival dramatically increases.

“If you are experiencing any symptoms of bowel cancer, visit your GP. If necessary they will carry out a rectal examination, but there is no need to feel embarrassed, it is a painless procedure which GPs are used to doing.”

Leading a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of bowel cancer. A number of ways to do this include: stopping smoking, keeping active by doing regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and reducing the amount of alcohol you drink.  

If you are experiencing symptoms of bowel cancer you can take the symptom test on the NHS Choices website to see if you should consult your GP.

For further information, visit the NHS Choices be clear on cancer page, to see what help is available.