Getting to the bottom of bowel cancer – why is poo in the press?

The Department of Health has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of early symptoms of bowel cancer. Aimed largely at the over 55s, the TV, radio and press campaign running in February and March 2012 encourages people with loose stools or blood in their poo for more than 3 weeks to see their GP.

Now, while we all do it, pooing is the last thing most of us want to read about over our breakfast cup of tea. But we ignore the bowel cancer symptoms at our peril. If you do have bowel cancer (and it’s the second most common cancer killer in the UK, with about 32,000 people diagnosed with the condition every year in England alone), burying your head in the sand is guaranteed not to make it go away. You’ll have to face up to it at some point, and getting it diagnosed early hugely increases your chance of successful treatment.

The national screening programme for bowel cancer has now been rolled out across the whole of the UK, with every 60-69 year old (50-74 year old in Scotland) being invited for screening every 2 years. You can find out more at NHS Bowel cancer screening programme. Because early diagnosis improves your chance of survival, this new campaign aims to complement the screening that’s already going on. Even if you do get symptoms, or your screening shows you’re at high risk, you’re more likely to be given the all clear rather than bad news on further testing. Like it or not, ignoring your bowels could mean you literally die of embarrassment.

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