Beating bowel cancer together

More than four in ten cannot name a single bowel cancer symptom

Thursday 31 March 2022

New findings we've released today reveal that more than four in ten (45%) people in the UK cannot name any symptoms of the UK's second biggest cancer killer.

With Friday 1 April marking the first day of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, we've released the new survey results to raise awareness of the UK's fourth most common cancer.

One of the key 'red flag' bowel cancer symptoms is blood in your poo but only a third of people (35%) are aware of it. The other four main symptoms, experienced by many who go on to be diagnosed with the disease, have an alarmingly low rate of awareness:

  • change of bowel habits (12%)
  • pain in your tummy or abdominal pain (11%)
  • weight loss (8%)
  • unexplained fatigue (2%)

And men are less likely than women to recognise any bowel cancer symptoms with half of UK men (55%) unable to spot any signs of bowel cancer, compared to 36% of women.

Bowel cancer is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer but this drops significantly as the disease develops. Knowing the key symptoms and visiting your GP if you have any of them, or if things don't feel right, can help increase the chances of an early diagnosis.

Award-wining journalist, ITV news presenter, Loose Women anchor and Bowel Cancer UK patron Charlene White, comments: "It's been 20 years since I lost my mum to bowel cancer when she was just 47. There have been many advances in treatments in that time but it's vital that people recognise the symptoms and act on them. People whose cancer is diagnosed at an early stage have a much higher chance of successful treatment than those whose cancer has become more widespread. If you have any symptoms, don't be embarrassed and don't ignore them."

Dr Philippa Kaye, GP, author and bowel cancer patient, said: "As both a GP and someone who has had bowel cancer, I completely understand it can be daunting visiting your GP with symptoms. However it is so important that you book an appointment as early as possible - please don't feel embarrassed, don't ignore any symptoms and don't put it off. As GPs we are used to seeing lots of people with bowel problems and if you are worried that something is wrong we want to see you. Early diagnosis could save your life."

Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs at Bowel Cancer UK says: "Bowel cancer remains the UK's second biggest cancer killer, and it's shocking that people aren't aware of the symptoms to look out for. If you notice any signs of bowel cancer, or if things just don't feel right for you, please visit your GP. While the disease largely affects people over the age of 50, more than 2,600 under 50s are diagnosed each year, so it's really important people seek advice as soon as possible – whatever their age – if they're worried."

Find out more about Bowel Cancer Awareness month

Pictured above: Charlene White (left) and Dr Philippa Kaye (right)

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