A Teesside health trust has launched a campaign this week to highlight the truths surrounding Britain’s fourth most common cancer – bowel cancer.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS foundation Trust, which serves a population of over 400,000 people across Stockton, Hartlepool and parts of County Durham, extending the screening service to parts of North Yorkshire, the Dales and as far as Whitby with a total population of 820,000 released their campaign as the UK recognises bowel cancer awareness month throughout April.
The campaign works to highlight the symptoms which might indicate that bowel cancer might be a possibility.
Ruth Dalton, Head of Communications and Marketing for the organisation explains more ‘every 15 minutes in the UK, someone is diagnosed with bowel cancer, it is the second biggest cancer killer. Just over four years ago, I lost a very good friend to the disease, she was just 36 years old. Bowel cancer is most common in the over 50’s, but it can affect people of all ages, like most cancers it is indiscriminate. Natalie was a fit and healthy young woman with a huge zest for life. She had relocated from the UK to Australia when her symptoms were recognised. She came back home in January 2014 and by November that year she was gone leaving her family and those who loved her devastated’.
Staff at the Trust are urging the public across Teesside and beyond to check for the most common symptoms:
- 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
Kelley Williamson, Lead Specialist Screening Practitioner at North Tees and Hartlepool comments ‘it’s never an easy discussion when you are talking all things bowel-related. As a nation we are embarrassed to talk toilet habits, but it’s something we have to change if we want to impact this cancer and more positive outcomes. There are over 42,000 diagnoses every year affecting both men and women, but we can impact those numbers. Taking part in screening is key in preventing bowel cancer and in helping to catch the cancer early for a much higher chance of survival.
Catching the disease early means it can usually be cured, but clinical experts advise on trying to reduce your risk by:
- Avoiding processed meat for example bacon, ham sausages, burgers, salami – an occasional treat rather than every day
- Limit your intake of red meat to 500g (cooked) per week
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink – no more than 14 units per week
- Don’t smoke – smoking increases your risk of bowel cancer
- Increase your intake of fibre
- Get active – aim for over 150 minutes of exercise a week
Kelley concludes ‘there are higher risk groups for this cancer, like all other cancers – but we would urge everyone to take responsibility for being vigilant. If you are worried about changes in your bowel habits, and you recognise some of the other symptoms, talk to your health care professionals. Whilst bringing up the subject of what’s happening in your toilet bowl and with your bottom may be cringe-worthy with your friends and family, you can be assured that we, and your GP won’t be shocked by anything you share’.