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Be bowel cancer aware this April

31 March 2016

​​Islanders are being urged not to be embarrassed about possible symptoms of bowel cancer as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. It runs throughout April, and is being supported by well-known Islander Derek Warwick who has had the all-clear from bowel cancer recently after being successfully treated for it.

Consultant Gastroenterologist at the General Hospital, Dr David Ng, said “1 in 17 people will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that if bowel cancer is caught in its early stages then the prognosis is over 95% five year survival, and that is what bowel cancer screening is doing. And when a polyp (precancerous growth) is found and removed, this should prevent bowel cancer from occurring.”

Dr Ng added “There is no need to be embarrassed to talk to your GP if you have noticed any change in your bowel habits. It’s important that you get to know what bowel habits are normal for you so you can spot any changes. 

These include

  • a change in bowel habit lasting for three weeks or more, especially to looser or runny poo, which needs to be checked by a doctor 

  • other symptoms to check for are any signs of bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo

  • unexplained weight loss

  • extreme tiredness for no obvious reason 

  • a pain or lump in your tummy

He continued "Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should go and see their GP as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the bigger the problem becomes, so we urge people to seek help early.”


Successful treatment

Colorectal (bowel) cancer is the third most common cause of cancer in Jersey causing, on average, 55 new cases diagnosed per year. However, nine out of ten cases of bowel cancer can be treated successfully if diagnosed early.

Survival after one year from colorectal cancer has been increasing locally, with a five-year survival rate for women at 78 %. For men, the five-year survival rate has increased from 72 % a decade ago to 82 %. 

Islanders in their 60th birthday year in Jersey are sent an invitation to undergo a free bowel screening test, and they are urged to take up the offer of screening. Since Jersey’s bowel screening programme was launched in 2013, 3,551 Islanders have been offered a bowel screening test, and there has been a 70 per cent take up rate of the offer, with seven cases of bowel cancer detected. 

In Jersey the screening programme uses the flexi-sig test to look for polyps which are growths in the bowel that are harmless at first but can sometimes develop into cancer if they’re not removed. 


Don't ignore symptoms

Dr Ng added "Too few people talk about bowel cancer and it is still considered a taboo by many. Sometimes embarrassment can even stop people from getting the help they need. But if bowel cancer is caught early, it can be treated and, in most cases, cured, so it’s vital you don’t ignore your symptoms.

As well as looking out for signs and symptoms of bowel cancer, Islanders can help reduce their chances of getting bowel cancer by making small changes to their lifestyle like improving their diet (such as eating more fruit and vegetables), exercising more and stopping smoking. All these things will help lower your chances of developing the condition.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Senator Andrew Green, said “Bowel screening is an important issue, and a swift, practical way to ensure that you are healthy. I’d recommend any Islander who is sent a letter inviting them for a free bowel screening test to take up the appointment. It is a simple check which could save your life.”


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