We've joined forces with Hold Amy's Hand
Together they aim to make a real impact in raising awareness of bowel cancer in younger people while establishing a lasting legacy for showbiz journalist Amy Watts, who died last year of the disease at aged just 37.
Last year's Hold Amy's Hand initiative hit the headlines after garnering widespread celebrity support from around the world to raise funds for Amy's treatment.
Amy Watts, an entertainment journalist from Bury, Lancs, had been working in the US and receiving chemotherapy after being diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. After being advised by doctors in the UK that she needed urgent surgery, and unfortunately quicker than the NHS could provide, a fundraising campaign was launched by an incredible group of supporters, family and friends.
They raised an amazing £100,000 in just ten days, but sadly Amy's condition deteriorated before she could have the operation. She died on 5 March 2015.
Fellow journalist Tina Campanella, who helped set up the fundraising marathon with Amy's long-time friend and colleague Niki Waldegrave, said: "Amy was a real force to be reckoned with and I feel privileged to have been her friend. As soon as we began the campaign, money poured in from all over the world. We were astonished, but we see now it was just testament to the lasting impression she made on everyone who met her."
Now her supporters intend to make real change for younger people with the disease through partnering with Bowel Cancer UK: by donating the money already raised by Amy's loved ones to fund a much-needed new policy role, while continuing to raise money and awareness of the disease in connection with the Never Too Young campaign.
The permanent and vital new Policy & Campaigns Officer will be based within Bowel Cancer UK's highly respected and experienced Policy team, and solely dedicated to the development of the charity's Never Too Young campaign - targeted at people under 50. Their work will focus on new research, clinical and policy guidance, and funding for diagnostic services.
Bowel Cancer UK has been working hard to improve the experiences of younger bowel cancer patients since launching the Never Too Young campaign in 2013. More than two thousand (2,100) people under 50 are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, the majority with stage 3 or 4 of the disease.
The charity has implemented real change since then:
- Ensured that younger people are now included for the first time in guidelines in England and Scotland for referral for suspected cancer
- Secured funding for a research project to help GPs identify which younger people to refer for diagnostic tests
- Produced an information booklet on the information gaps younger people identified
- Formed a global alliance with bowel cancer charities in the USA and Australia
- Published guidance with the Royal College of Pathology to make sure that everyone under the age of 50 with bowel cancer is tested for Lynch Syndrome
- Carried out a follow up survey of over 400 younger patients - the largest attitude survey of this group ever undertaken.
Deborah Alsina continued, "Never Too Young has taken a co-ordinated, cross-organisational approach to improving health outcomes for young patients at policy and practice level and we are very proud of what the campaign has achieved so far, but there is so much more we need to do. Early diagnosis is key so we will also be working with scientists and clinicians to develop and fund research projects that will lead to earlier diagnosis of younger patients."
The immediate campaign priorities also include monitoring the implementation of guidance for patients, ensuring people at higher risk of bowel cancer can access the screening surveillance they require and continuing to campaign to ensure that adequate endoscopy resource is in place to meet demand.
The Never Too Young campaign also calls for improved information for younger people on bowel symptoms and better information and support for younger bowel cancer patients from healthcare practitioners.