Never Too Young: the campaign
Our Never Too Young campaign was launched in 2013 and is leading the change for younger bowel cancer patients
Every year over 2,500 younger people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK. While this is only around six per cent of those diagnosed, this number is slowly increasing. The campaign is giving younger patients a voice and changing clinical practice and policy to stop people dying of bowel cancer under 50.
Our latest research has found that despite the many achievements over the years, more work still needs to be done to improve the diagnosis, treatment and care of younger people with bowel cancer.
What are the key issues?
Delays in diagnosis
- Prior to being diagnosed, half of people didn’t know they could develop bowel cancer under the age of 50
- One in three delayed making an appointment with their GP for at least three months, and this was more common in people unaware of the symptoms of bowel cancer
- Four in ten saw their GP three or more times about their symptoms before being referred for tests
High risk groups
- Only 22% of people had been asked about their family history of bowel cancer during initial contact with their GP
- Around half of people had not been offered testing for Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition that increases the risk of bowel cancer at a younger age, after being diagnosed with bowel cancer. Find out more about our work on Lynch syndrome.
Treatment and support
- One in five did not have access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
- One in four felt that the support they needed wasn't there after their treatment ended
- Over half didn't have enough support and information about mental health and the consequences of treatment on sex, intimacy and romantic relationships
- The impact of treatment on fertility and family planning was a key concern but 40% said they didn’t receive enough information and support on this topic.
What are we calling for?
- Improved awareness in the general public and for medical professionals on the symptoms of bowel cancer, and that it can affect people under the age of 50
- Younger people going to their GP with symptoms of bowel cancer should be referred for further tests without unnecessary delays
- Younger patients with bowel cancer should have treatment, care and support tailored to their needs
- All younger bowel cancer patients should be tested for Lynch syndrome as soon as they are diagnosed and receive the appropriate surveillance colonoscopies
- Challenges in the healthcare system amplified by COVID-19, such as endoscopy capacity, must be addressed urgently to prevent further barriers to diagnosis for younger people.