SCREENING is the best way to detect bowel cancer – and it’s the subject of the latest campaign from the Scottish government.
The focus for the Detect Cancer Early campaign this April is the colon, as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness month.
The third most common cancer in Scotland, around 4,000 people are diagnosed each year and one in 19 will suffer from it at some point.
The good news is that nine out of 10 people survive bowel cancer – if detected and treated early enough.
Men and women aged 50-74 are invited to take part in at-home screenings every two years – but uptake remains low, with just over half of those eligible making that potentially life-saving first step.
Emilia Crighton, consultant in public health medicine for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, explained: “As the signs of bowel cancer can be unnoticeable, the screening programme is the best way to detect blood in the bowel, which can be a sign of bowel cancer.
“We would urge all local people between 50 and 74 to find out more about the benefits of taking the screening test.
“It’s important to break down some of the taboos around the private nature of bowel cancer, which will help raise awareness of this important public health issue.”
The home testing kit is automatically sent to eligible residents, and results are estimated to return within two weeks – but if you haven’t yet completed one, then the Scottish Bowel Screening helpline, 0800 0121 833, can help.
Pollok man Billy Tait (59) is backing the campaign, having been clear of bowel cancer for almost three years following early detection.
Billy said: “I didn’t have any symptoms of bowel cancer so when the screening kit arrived I initially put it on the shelf.
“After a few days I started to think of other members of my family who’d had cancer and it prompted me to take the test and send it back.
“The results highlighted that there was some blood in my stools so I was sent for a colonoscopy.
“After this point it all happened very fast. I was in hospital to have a tumour removed by the end of the week, and back home just three weeks after the operation.”
He added: “Cancer doesn’t mean the end but it is something to be taken seriously. If you spot any signs or symptoms then you should go to your GP as soon as possible.
“It’s also very important to take part in screening. It might not be cancer but the worst thing you can do is ignore the signs or not take a screening test.”
For more information, including symptoms, visit www.bowelscreeningtest.org.