Bowel cancer - early screening significantly increases chances of beating the disease Image

Bowel cancer - early screening significantly increases chances of beating the disease

Posted: 04/04/2016

Penningtons Manches LLP is supporting this month’s Bowel Awareness Campaign to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer and the importance of screening for the disease. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with statistics showing that 41,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year. A staggering number (94%) of those diagnosed, are over the age of 50. 

Bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early. A significant proportion of people who are diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer. However, the chances of surviving the disease drop quite rapidly as it develops. Bowel cancer screening is therefore the best way to get diagnosed, and receive treatment, early. 

The NHS offers two types of bowel cancer screening to adults registered with a GP in England: 

  • All men and women aged 60-74 are invited to carry out a faecal occult blood (FOB) test

Every two years, a home test kit is sent out, which is used to collect tiny stool samples on a special card. The card is then sealed in a hygienic freepost envelope and sent to the screening laboratory, where it will be checked for traces of blood that may not be visible to the naked eye, but could be an early sign of bowel cancer. 

  • An addition alone-off test called bowel scope screening is gradually being introduced in England. This is offered to men and women at the age of 55. As of March 2015, about two-thirds of screening centres were beginning to offer this test to 55-year-olds. It involves a doctor or nurse using a thin, flexible instrument to look inside the lower part of the bowel. 

Bowel screening can save lives, but at present, in some parts of the UK, only a third of those who receive a test complete it. Consequently, thousands of people are missing out on the chance to detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat. Therefore, the importance of screening cannot be stressed enough. Charities are calling for all people aged over 60 (or over 50 in Scotland) to take the test when it is received in the post. Those under the age of 60 are asked to encourage relatives aged over 60 to take the test. 

However, bowel cancer can affect people of any age. More than 2,400 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50. As highlighted above, those younger than 60 are not eligible for the FOB screening test, but they are eligible for bowel scope screening. It is therefore important if you have symptoms of bowel cancer, which can include blood in the stools, changes in bowel habit and/ or abdominal (tummy) pain, that urgent advice should be sought from your GP. Equally, if you are worried about a family history of bowel cancer or about your bowel health in any way, this should be raised with your GP. He or she will then discuss with you whether any further investigation is needed by way of a referral to a specialist. 

Naomi Holland, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “The importance of early diagnosis and treatment cannot be stressed enough. However, awareness of symptoms of the disease amongst both patients who are not eligible for screening and health professionals is equally crucial. We act for a number of clients whose cancer diagnosis was delayed despite the fact that they had symptoms for some time. It is hoped that raising awareness of the disease and the methods used to test for it will give greater power to patients to demand investigation and treatment if they are worried about the symptoms they are experiencing.”   

If you, your family or a friend have any concerns about the medical treatment you have received for bowel cancer or any other type of cancer, please contact us for a free initial chat. 

Click here for more information about bowel cancer.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP