Early diagnosis of bowel cancer saves lives, say Havering GPs

08 April 2019

GPs in Havering are backing a campaign to highlight the importance of bowel cancer screening – stressing that early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives.

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK but nearly everyone diagnosed with it at the earliest stage survives it. Despite this, it is the second biggest cause of cancer deaths in the UK, proving early diagnosis and treatment can be vital.

This Bowel Cancer Awareness Month (April 2019), people in Havering are being urged to be aware of the key symptoms – and visit their GP if things don’t feel right.

Doing so can help increase the chances of an early diagnosis.

Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy.

If you have one or more of these, make an appointment to see your GP. It may be nothing to worry about but getting checked will put your mind at rest.

There are several ways you can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer in the first place. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle – including cutting down on red meat and processed foods – eating more fibre and staying active will mean you are less likely to develop bowel cancer, as will quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol.

Bowel cancer can affect people of any age but most of those diagnosed are aged over 50 and almost 60 per cent are aged 70 or over. In Havering, only 55.4 per cent of people aged 60-74 attend bowel cancer screening, which is below the national average (59 per cent).

Dr Atul Aggarwal, a local GP and Chair of NHS Havering Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said:

“Early diagnosis of bowel cancer dramatically increases the survival rate and is therefore crucial to saving lives.

“If you are over 55, you should take advantage of the screening options available to you but whatever your age you need to visit a GP if you have any of the symptoms.”