Our 2021 highlights
Thursday 23 December 2021
As the year draws to a close, we're taking stock of everything that's happened over the past 12 months, reflecting on the challenges we've faced as a community but also recognising the positive stories that have shone though.
It's been another difficult year and people with bowel cancer continue to face extraordinary challenges. Whilst the true impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the disease is yet to be fully understood, what is clear is that bowel cancer services have been hit particularly hard, placing additional pressure on a system that was already under significant strain.
We've worked tirelessly to provide information and services to support people affected by bowel cancer and continue to campaign across the UK to make your voices heard, raise awareness of the issues affecting you and influence change within government and the NHS. Our coronavirus pages are full of up to date information to help you navigate through the latest and fast changing news on the pandemic.
Although it's been a tough year, when we look back there are still many things to be grateful for. So, before we head into 2022 we'd like to share with you our top ten highlights of the year.
Wishing you a peaceful festive break and a Happy New Year.
Support for you
We've been able to offer new and more ways to support you through your diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Many of you have joined our online support groups called Chat Together, which are free one-hour weekly calls on Zoom with a small group of other people who have bowel cancer, and provided support to each other on our online forum. We've also hosted two virtual events specifically for people living with bowel cancer and advanced bowel cancer, where expert clinicians spoke on a range of topics.
Thank you to everyone who's taken part in our online events and made our community stronger, we hope you've found them useful, comforting and informative.
Thanks to all of you who have found so many ways to raise money for us this year. Once again, you've gone above and beyond to support us with your donations, taken part in our Walk Together, Brew Together and Step up for 30 campaigns, joined our Quizmas Challenge earlier this month or one of the many other creative ways you've chosen to raise money. It was also amazing to see the return of big events this year such as the Virgin Money London Marathon and the Great North Run. We've loved cheering you on where we could and look forward to meeting more of you next year.
Thanks to your amazing fundraising activities and donations, we're still expecting to raise around £4 million this year, which is phenomenal and surpassed all our expectations. Thank you all so much, we're truly grateful.
Wave of new advanced bowel cancer drugs approved
We were thrilled to help secure the availability of several drugs to help treat advanced bowel cancer in the UK. This year saw the approval of Nivolumab in combination with Ipilimumab in England, Wales and Scotland, Encorafenib combined with Cetuximab in Scotland and Pembrolizumab in England, Wales and Scotland. These drugs offer new hope to an often overlooked group who before this were faced with limited treatment options.
Deborah James joined us as our Patron
We were delighted to announce Deborah James (aka @BowelBabe) as our newest Patron back in February. Deborah was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in 2016, when she was 35 years old and discusses her experience of being a young woman and mum living with the disease in her award-winning column in The Sun Online, her best-selling book, 'F*** You Cancer: How to face the big C, live your life and still be yourself' and the chart-topping podcasts 'You, Me & the Big C' for BBC's Radio 5 Live and 'The Good Stuff', which she hosts with her children.
A bumper Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
April was Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, our annual opportunity to raise important awareness of the disease. During the month, over 800 of you took part in our Step up for 30 fundraising campaign and many more found different ways to raise money and awareness. Thanks to your support and creativity, together we reached millions of people and raised more than £350,000!
Bowel cancer was also the focus for the No Butts campaign on ITV's Lorraine show for several weeks in April. Fronted by Deborah James and featuring some of our amazing supporters, the show highlighted the importance of smashing the poo taboo, knowing the symptoms to look out for, and urging people to contact their GP if things don't feel right.
Supporting healthcare professionals
This year, we've expanded our training, resources and events for healthcare professionals to ensure the highest possible standards of treatment and care for people with bowel cancer. We launched a free online course for community pharmacy staff in Wales, held vital learning sessions for 200 nurses at our annual National Colorectal Cancer Nurses Network (NCCNN) virtual study day and relaunched our order service for some of our most popular printed publications.
Raising awareness to help save lives
Our survey earlier this year showed that around half of adults living in the UK (42%) were not aware of any symptoms of bowel cancer. That's why we've set out to raise as much awareness of the disease as possible. This year, we've launched a new animation teaching people the facts about bowel cancer, we've worked in partnership with NHS England on their Help Us, Help You campaign, our volunteers have given over 150 bowel cancer awareness talks to organisations and groups, and hundreds of thousands of you have shared our information graphics and videos on social media. Thank you so much for helping to spread the word – the more people who know the symptoms, the more lives we can save.
Your personal stories and experiences are a vital source of support and comfort to others who may be going through something similar. We can't tell you how much we appreciate your honesty and openness when it comes to speaking out, whether it's on our website, our forum or engaging with others on social media. We're so proud of our how connected our community is and only hope to build on this and support you as much as we can in the future.
Our work leads to DPYD testing being introduced in Northern Ireland
Our ongoing campaigning led to Northern Ireland introducing routine DPYD testing to screen for serious reactions to chemotherapy. This potentially lifesaving test has been routinely available in Wales and England since 2020, and the Scottish Government has also committed to introducing DPYD testing in Scotland.
Making strides in bowel cancer research
Lives could be saved if we diagnosed people earlier, develop new and more effective treatments, and ensure people have access to high quality care, and research is pivotal to making advances in these areas. That's why we're committed to funding high quality research ourselves as well as facilitating and supporting larger research projects in priority research areas, all specific to bowel cancer.
We have projects investigating the causes of bowel cancer, discovering ways to improve diagnosis and treatments, understanding more about Lynch syndrome and finding out more about how the disease develops in younger people. Thanks to all your donations and fundraising, we're looking at how to develop our research programme even further in 2022 and beyond.