Beating bowel cancer together

Bowel Cancer UK raises awareness among Northern Ireland civil service

The UK’s leading bowel cancer research charity, Bowel Cancer UK, has raised awareness of the disease in the last six months among more than 400 Civil Service members of staff in Northern Ireland and is planning to continue its work during 2016.

Co-ordinated by Bernie McGarry, Bowel Cancer UK’s Health Promotion & Fundraising Officer,a team of volunteers has delivered 25 awareness talks and have another seven scheduled in the coming months.  The talks have been delivered as part of the Civil Service’s WELL Programme.

WELL is a programme incorporating support, education and information on a wide range of health and wellbeing issues which is available to all Northern Ireland Civil Service staff.  It has a network of volunteers in NICS buildings throughout Northern Ireland called Champions.

The role of the Champion is primarily a supporting one to facilitate the implementation of the WELL Programme in each location.  The Programme includes activities and information to staff on a whole range of health and wellbeing issues within the NICS.

Laura Mullan, Health Promotion Officer, for the WELL Programme said, “ It has been a great opportunity to work with Bernie at Bowel Cancer UK to arrange so many talks and create more awareness about Bowel Cancer with staff in the Civil Service. There has been great interest in the talks and staff have been able to learn about symptoms to look out for and how to improve their diet and lifestyle to reduce their risk of developing bowel cancer.”

Bernie McGarry, Bowel Cancer UK, said, “We are extremely grateful to a dedicated team of volunteers who have helped us organise these talks, we couldn’t have done it without them.”

One of the volunteers, Mairead Mageean, has been particularly involved, she said:

“I was in the Civil Service for many years and my husband, who died of bowel cancer in his forties was also a civil servant, so I was keen to do these particular talks as I know the system and the way civil servants operate. I think because of my background the staff paid more attention and asked some really interesting and relevant questions."

Bowel Cancer UK is urging people during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April to spread the word among their family, friends and colleagues to take part in screening.

Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer yet it’s a disease which is often overlooked and diagnosed too late.   Every year over 1,100 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 400 people die of the disease.

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms. Since its launch 10 years ago, it has been proven to save lives. If you’re registered with a GP and aged 60-74, you will receive a test in the post every two years. You carry out the simple test at home in private and it comes with step by step instructions. The test looks for hidden blood in your poo, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer screening can save lives but at the moment in some areas of Northern Ireland only half of those who receive a test complete it. Thousands of people are missing out on the chance to detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat.

During April, Bowel Cancer UK is inviting the public to join the Be a Star, Bake a Cake fundraising campaign to support vital research and life-saving work to stop bowel cancer.  Everyone can get involved in Be a Star, Bake A Cake, whether you love to get creative in the kitchen or would prefer to buy something delicious from your local supermarket.  

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