Government launches bowel cancer campaign

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Government has today launched a new campaign to help people spot the warning signs of bowel cancer.

The 'Be Clear on Cancer' initiative aims to raise awareness of the main symptoms of the disease, including blood in stools or looser stools for three weeks or more.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said public awareness of bowel cancer symptoms remains low, despite the fact that it is one of the most common forms of cancer.

Around 33,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in England each year and 13,000 people die from the disease.

More than 90 per cent of people who are diagnosed at an early stage survive for at least five years, compared with just six per cent of those diagnosed in the later stages of the disease. Most people diagnosed with bowel cancer are over the age of 55.

Figures suggest that an extra 1,700 lives could be saved every year if England's bowel cancer survival rates matched the best in Europe.

The new campaign seeks to make people more aware of the symptoms and to make it easier for them to discuss with their doctor.

It features real GPs, who urge people to visit their doctor if they have had blood in their stools or loose stools for more than three weeks.

Adverts will appear on TV, radio, online and in newspapers in England for nine weeks from today (Monday 30 January) until the end of March.

The scheme was piloted last year in the South West and East of England. It resulted in a 48 per cent increase in the number of over-50s visiting their doctor with the relevant symptoms - the equivalent of around one extra patient per practice every week.

Minister Paul Burstow said: "No one likes talking about their poo - it's embarrassing. But bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer so we need to get over the embarrassment and talk to someone about it.

"The Be Clear on Cancer campaign uses simple messages to make people aware of the key symptoms of bowel cancer and to give them the confidence to talk to their GP if they notice the symptoms. No matter how embarrassing it is, talking to your GP can help save your life."

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said: "Detecting bowel tumours early, before they've had a chance to spread, can significantly stack the odds in the patient's favour.

"Bowel cancer is currently the UK's second biggest cancer killer. If people respond to this campaign - and take up bowel screening when invited to do so - we have a chance of pushing bowel cancer well down the league table of killers.

"We urge people to overcome their fear. For most, any symptoms will turn out to be nothing to worry about. But for those people with cancer, the earlier they go to their doctor, the more likely they are to survive."

Copyright Press Association 2012