Beating bowel cancer together

Scots answer call to join the 'bowel movement'

by Claire Prentice, Senior Marketing Manager, Detect Cancer Early, Scottish Government

Our Detect Cancer Early Programme aims to improve cancer survival rates in Scotland to amongst the best in Europe by diagnosing and treating cancer at the earliest stages.

Social marketing has a big part to play, and our most recent campaign – ‘Join the Bowel Movement’ – focuses on the growing number of people in Scotland returning their bowel screening test, in a bid to motivate others to do the same.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland with around 4,000 people diagnosed each year.

The bowel screening test is sent out to everyone in Scotland aged 50-74 every two years through the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme and remains the most effective way of finding the disease early, when the likelihood of survival is 14 times higher.

Every year, over half a million people in Scotland complete and return their bowel screening kits. And although the figure is higher than ever before, we created ‘Join the Bowel Movement’ to specifically talk to those people who put off taking the test. 

By highlighting the growing number of people in Scotland who are routinely returning their test, the campaign aims to encourage others of screening age to do the same.

Do yours – it could be a life-saver

The campaign call to action gives a clear benefit of doing the test – ‘do yours, it could be a life-saver’. And the campaign is really making a difference with an additional 9,700 tests returned during its most recent phase. Even more encouraging is the fact that one of the largest increases in bowel screening uptake has been from men in the most deprived areas of Scotland. This group has a higher risk of bowel cancer yet are less likely to take part in screening. They’re now returning an additional 5,000 bowel screening tests a year (comparing 2016 to 2011).

"The fact that we can see a clear correlation between social marketing activity, and action taken by the public, proves the key role it can play in helping save even more lives from bowel cancer. It’s safe to say that the bowel movement has begun – more people than ever before are completing their bowel screening kits in Scotland." Professor Bob Steele, Director of the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme

580,000 Scots have already joined the bowel movement

With almost 580,000 tests being  completed and returned in 2016 – the bowel movement campaign has drawn support from Scottish celebrities including Fred MacAulay, Still Games’s Gavin Mitchell and Claire Grogan.

As well as featuring in the TV advert, Fred surprised Rutherglen woman – Liz Harris – who had her bowel cancer found early thanks to the test. You can see what happened here…

Commenting on why he felt compelled to get involved Fred MacAulay, said: "There have been incidences of bowel cancer amongst my friends and family, and because of screening, they’ve survived.
I do my test every two years and personally think the screening we’re offered in this country is a great thing. I’d encourage everyone who is invited to take the test and hopefully this campaign will help make that happen."

Movement gaining momentum

A swell of people from across Scotland have got behind the drive by sharing their motivations for  doing the bowel screening test, and encouraging people like them to do the same.

As so eloquently put by one such advocate, Graham Hathaway, 62 from Falkirk, who was proud to say he participated in bowel screening - "It may not be the most pleasant thing to do, but it’s well worth doing. It’s a good feeling when you send off the test, it’s reassuring, a bit like getting a check-up from your GP.” 

And with figures showing that, on average, 47,500 tests are returned in April in Scotland, the ‘movement’ momentum is being maintained throughout Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. We’ve teamed up with Bowel Cancer UK to encourage more Scots to do the test, or request a replacement test if they’ve mislaid it.

To find out more visit or keep up to date via our Facebook page

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