Raising awareness of bowel cancer

This April the Colorectal Nursing team along with the Endoscopy and Bowel Screening departments of South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust are raising awareness of Bowel Cancer and the most common symptoms to be aware of.

Bowel Cancer is the general term given to a cancer that develops in the large bowel (colon) or rectum.

It is the third most common cancer in Northern Ireland and the second leading cause of cancer death.

There are 1,100 people diagnosed every year and over 400 people die from the disease (Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, 2016).

Pictured left to right: Mr Rob Spence, Colorectal Surgeon, Sarah Christie Colorectal Nurse Specialist, Una-Mairead Brady Colorectal Nurse Specialist, Mr Conor Warren Colorectal Surgeon, Martina Finn Colorectal Nurse Specialist, Jacqueline Blair Colorectal Nurse Specialist

Sarah Christie, Colorectal CNS Nurse Specialist advised: “The early symptoms of bowel cancer are very similar to other, much less serious problems with the bowel.

“It is very important to be aware of what is normal for you and seek advice from your G.P. if any of the following symptoms have lasted for more than three weeks.”

These include:

r Blood in your stools.

r Unexplained change in your bowel habits such as prolonged diarrhoea or constipation.

r Unexplained weight loss or abdominal pain.

r Extreme tiredness for no reason.

r A pain or lump in your tummy.

She added: “Your G P will assess you before referring you to a colorectal surgeon if appropriate.”

80% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer are aged over 60, a family history or related bowel conditions are also a factor that will increase your risk along with consuming a high alcohol intake, smoking, being overweight and eating a diet high in red or processed meats and low in fibre.

The Northern Ireland Bowel Screening Programme offers screening every two years to all men and women aged 60-74.

The aim of the screening programme is to detect bowel cancers at an early stage.

People in this age group are automatically sent an invitation letter followed by a screening test kit.

The test is completed in the privacy of the person’s home.

If the test is positive for blood the participant will be notified to undertake a further test.

Jacqueline Blair, Colorectal CNS Nurse Specialist explained: “The earlier bowel cancer is caught the easier it is to treat, act today if you have any of the symptoms above that have lasted more than three weeks and please take part in the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme when you are invited to attend.”

Call the screening helpline on 0800 015 2514 or visit https://cancerscreening.hscni.net for more information about bowel screening.