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08 June 2016

2 out of 5 men in Cumbria don’t take part in bowel cancer screening and leave it to chance

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Bowel cancer screening is important, as it can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms, when treatment is likely to be more effective. In some areas of West Cumbria only 52% of men aged 60-69 are taking part in screening compared with the 58% national average.

If it's detected at an early stage, before symptoms appear, it's easier to treat and there's a better chance of survival. In England, men and women aged between 60 and 74 are sent a bowel screening test kit every 2 years through the post, with instructions for doing the simple test at home. Kits can then be sent free of charge back to a laboratory for testing. People aged over 74 can request a screening kit by contacting the bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 6060.

Last year in Cumbria nearly 20,000 men were invited to take part in screening but only 11,480 took the test. Nearly 9,000 men left it to chance. Cancer Research UK calculates that a man's lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer is 1 in 14.

A key issue amongst men in the at risk group is that they have a negative perception of the screening test and consider it embarrassing and unpleasant, but collecting the samples doesn't take long and those who participate will receive the results of their test in the post within 2 weeks.

Cllr Ian Stewart, the county council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, said:

“For me this is personal as in 1991 my father-in-law died of bowel cancer. He might have lived if the opportunity to check that we now have was available at that time.

“When the opportunity comes to me, I'm going to take it.  Join me in taking this test, and let's all live longer."

Colin Cox, Cumbria County Council’s Director of Public Health, said:

“The uptake figures are worrying and tell us that many in the at risk group are leaving it to chance. We hope this latest campaign will help raise awareness of the need for those aged 60-74 to take part in screening.

“Symptoms can be subtle and don't necessarily make people feel ill, making it easy for the cancer to go unnoticed.

“Therefore the best course of action is for those at risk to take the simple test at home and return it.”

Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North West, said:

“We know that regular bowel cancer screening really can save lives. The earlier the disease is found the higher the chances of successful treatment.

“We hope that the posters around the town will help encourage more people to respond when they receive their free kit in the post.”

Members of the public who want more information can call the bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.

Those over the age of 75 can request a bowel cancer screening test kit by calling the freephone helpline on 0800 707 60 60.

More information is available at www.cumbria.gov.uk/bowelcancer.  

Cumbria County Council is working in partnership with Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group and Cancer Research UK to appeal to West Cumbrian men who may be at risk of bowel cancer. The risk of bowel cancer increases with age, with over 80% of bowel cancers arising in people who are 60 or over. This latest campaign hopes to increase screening participation by men over the age of 60 living in West Cumbria where uptake is at a worrying low.