TWENTY-TWO people are diagnosed and 10 die from bowel cancer in the Larne area every year.
Since April is Bowel Cancer Awareness month, cancer charity Action Cancer is encouraging men and women across the borough to be aware of the symptoms of the disease and to seek advice immediately if they have any concerns.
Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in Northern Ireland and the second most common cause of death from cancer. Approximately 1,000 people are diagnosed and 440 die from the disease here every year.
Geraldine Kerr, Head of Professional Services for Action Cancer said: “Bowel cancer is more common in older people, with around 80 per cent of bowel cancers occurring in people aged over 60.
“Research shows that the elderly in particular may not be aware of the disease’s warning signs and may be diagnosed at a later stage in their illness because they don’t want to bother their doctor with possible symptoms.
“If bowel cancer is detected in its earliest stages the individual has more than a nine in 10 chance of surviving the disease so we need to ensure that the public are aware of the most common early signs and symptoms like having blood in your stools, loose and more frequent bowel movements or pain and swelling in your abdomen for a prolonged length of time.
“It’s important to note that there are many other common conditions with similar symptoms that will affect us at some time in our lives, so most people with these symptoms do not have cancer. But if you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms and they do not go away within two to six weeks, we would recommend you seek advice from your GP immediately.”
The Northern Ireland Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offers screening every two years to men and women aged 60 to 71, and aims to increase the proportion of cases detected at an early stage of the disease, before symptoms develop and when the chance of successful treatment is greatest.
People in this age group are sent an invitation, information materials and a screening kit so they can do the test at home. Recipients are asked to collect small stool samples on a special card and send the kit to a screening laboratory which checks for tiny traces of blood. The presence of blood in the stool sample indicates that more investigations are needed. The results are issued within two weeks of sending in the test.
For more information about the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer please visit www.actioncancer.org to download the ‘Don’t just sit on your symptoms’ bowel cancer leaflet or pick up a copy at your local Gordons Chemists. To find out more on the Northern Ireland Screening Programme please visit www.cancerscreening.hscni.net/.
Signs and symptoms of bowel cancer
n Unexpected, painless bleeding from your back passage, or blood in your stools. If you see blood in your stools, you should see your GP immediately. Finding a little bright red blood just on the toilet paper probably does not matter. If it continues for two or three weeks, see your GP
n A change in your bowel habit. You may develop loose bowel motions, or you may pass a slimy substance called mucus. Sometimes you may become constipated. Look out for constipation and diarrhoea combined.
If you experience these symptoms for more than six weeks, you should see your GP. If you have these symptoms as well as others in this list, see your GP as soon as possible
n Pain or swelling in your abdomen (belly or tummy)
n Unexplained weight loss
n Unexplained anaemia (thinning of the blood). This can make you feel extremely tired. It is usually discovered by a blood test done by your GP
n Please note that all these symptoms can be caused by other conditions. For example, haemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome and colitis