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Bowel cancer awareness month

06 April 2017

Radio advertising, social media and kerbside banners are among the methods being used to raise awareness of bowel cancer in Jersey.

A radio advert will run on Channel 103 FM for the whole month of April, reminding Islanders that there is no need to be embarrassed about seeing their GP if they notice any changes in their bowel habits.

The ad features a conversation between two men and is being funded by local charity Jersey Cancer Relief. There will also be an awareness banner placed by the Steam Clock in St Helier for two weeks and social media posts on the subject.

Consultant Gastroenterologists at Jersey General Hospital, Dr David Ng and Dr Moses Duku, lead a team providing a bowel screening programme for Islanders in their 60th birthday year, and treating those with possible bowel cancer symptoms. Dr Ng said “There is absolutely no need for anyone who is worried about a change in their bowel habits to be worried about seeing their GP. Your GP will not be embarrassed and neither should you be. We just want people to get the treatment and reassurance they need, when they need it.”

It’s important for people to get to know what bowel habits are normal for them so they 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 the bottom and/or blood in poo
  • unexplained weight loss
  • extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • a pain or lump in your tummy

Dr Ng added "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.”

The awareness month of April gives the team the opportunity to remind Islanders that:

  • each year, around 20 people die in Jersey from bowel cancer
  • an average of 60 new cases occurs amongst Islanders annually
  • evidence shows the flexi-sig programme (bowel screening programme) can, within 10 years or so, reduce number of new cases of bowel cancer, and deaths caused by it, by around 50%
  • if all those who are eligible for screening come along and have the test, every year the new programme will prevent five to six people from being diagnosed with bowel cancer in the future

Dr Ng said “There is an increase in people under the age of 50 being affected by bowel cancer, and the lifetime risk of cancer is that it affects one in 15 men and one in 17 women. It is the fourth most common cancer. Bowel cancer can occur in younger people, but eight out of 10 people who get cancer of the bowel are over the age of 60. That is why we urge 60-year-olds to come for the free test.”

The risk factors include:

  • a previous bowel polyp
  • a personal history of chronic bowel inflammation: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease will slightly increase the risk of developing bowel cancer
  • diet: a diet that is high in red meat and fat and low in vegetables, folate and fibre may increase the risk of bowel cancer
  • lack of exercise: moderate exercise may help prevent bowel cancer
  • obesity: being overweight or obese may increase the risk of bowel cancer
  • smoking and alcohol: although not as strong a risk factor as for other cancers, smoking may also increase the risk of bowel cancer, particularly in heavy drinkers. Alcohol consumption may increase risk, especially in those with low levels of folate in their diet
  • family history: fewer than one in 10 cases of bowel cancer are due to an inherited gene defect. However, there are certain families who have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer due to a variety of conditions including familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC)
  • personal history of bowel cancer: having had bowel cancer before increases the risk of a new cancer developing

Oonagh Butler from Jersey Cancer Relief said “We are delighted to support the advert to help raise awareness about bowel cancer. Awareness can only help education and detection and as a charity committed to helping people who have cancer, we feel well placed to be involved in this important initiative.”

Bowel cancer screening programme

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