Do you know the 5 red-flag signs of bowel cancer? It could save your life
WHEN Covid struck, cancer treatment stopped.
So did screening.
And with every day of coronavirus that passes more and more names are being added to ever-growing cancer waiting lists.
It’s quite frankly terrifying.
In the UK we screen for breast, cervical and bowel cancers.
If you’re a woman you’ll be more aware of the process than men, with the first invite for a smear test arriving when you’re 25.
The letters invite you for mammograms, smear and stool tests.
Since the coronavirus epidemic, one million bowel cancer invites have not been sent. That's one million missed chances.
Early diagnosis saves lives
Why are they so important? They pick up the very earliest warning signs that you might be at risk of cancer.
They uncover lumps and bumps that are where they shouldn’t be, precancerous cells and blood in your poo.
The truth is screening helps diagnose cancer early, and early diagnosis saves lives.
Since the coronavirus epidemic, one million bowel cancer invites have not been sent. That's one million missed chances
Caught early and bowel cancer is curable.
At stage 1 you have a 98 per cent chance of living five years or more.
But caught late, like mine was, and you probably won’t be so lucky. The chance of living five years after being told you have stage 4 bowel cancer is about eight per cent.
I’ve outlived by ‘Sell By’ date and I’m living on borrowed time. That’s why I am so determined to raise awareness.
I was 35 when I was diagnosed, I don’t want other families to face what my kids are – growing up without their mum.
No Time 2 Lose
That’s why I worked with The Sun to launch the No Time 2 Lose campaign two years ago.
We called on the Government to lower the bowel cancer screening age from 60 to 50. They listened and are in the process of rolling out a new test to make it possible.
But screening was only half the battle.
The other half is the need to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.
Knowledge is power, and in this case it could save your life.
What are the warning signs?
- Blood in your poo, or bleeding from your back passage
- Persistent and unexplained change in your bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling exhausted for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in your tummy
Given the Covid crisis knowing what’s normal for you, checking your body – and yes, you poo too – for the signs of cancer regularly has never been more important.
Over the last few months, I have been inundated with messages of despair.
They are from cancer pals and strangers, all feeling frustrated and left hanging.
Cancer patients feel forgotten about.
I was one of the lucky ones, who was able to have treatment, while coronavirus raged around us.
But too many people have been left waiting.
Waiting for treatment, and waiting to see if they have cancer.
One million missed chances
There are around one million people waiting for bowel cancer screening tests.
Of those, thousands will need to go for more tests – colonoscopies to investigate what’s going on in there.
Of those, I hate to think how many will be diagnosed – too late.
It’s so incredibly frustrating, it makes me so angry I want to cry.
I feel like we’re hitting a brick wall and all those years of smashing the poo taboo is being flushed down the toilet.
While screening in England is still on hold, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have got their programmes up and running again.
It’s time we followed suit and fast.
We’ve already missed one million opportunities to diagnose people at the earliest stage.
Bowel Cancer UK has estimated around 1,350 of those people will be living with undiagnosed bowel cancer right now.
Eye of the cancer storm
We’re in the eye of a perfect storm – and it’s only going to get worse.
We stayed at home, we protected the NHS and we saved lives – from Covid.
Now, the Government needs to kickstart a major programme to deal with the cancer crisis that is coming our way, and fast.
We’re heading for a cancer epidemic, and there’s no time to lose.
Yes, we need services up and running safely again.
But, we can all do our bit. So check yourself, your boobs and your balls for lumps and bumps and your poo for traces of blood.
Check yourself and save lives
Take some responsibility for your health and learn what’s normal for you.
Get in tune with your body, and by doing so you will be on high alert when something doesn’t feel right.
If you get that gut feeling, trust it – and go to see your GP.
I ended up having to show photos of my poo to my doctor for them to take my symptoms seriously.
If that’s what it takes, don’t be shy – it could save your life.
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