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​Colorectal Cancer can be a silent killer

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, aimed to highlight the importance of early diagnosis in tackling one of the most prominent forms of cancer. Bowel cancer is a common type of cancer in both men and women. About 1 in 20 people will get it during their lifetime and currently cancer affects more than 40,000 people a year in the UK.

Screening can help detect bowel cancer at an early stage, when it's easier to treat. Based on a simple test for the presence of invisible blood in your stool, cancer can be identified and treated at an early curable stage.

In Southwark, the number of people taking advantage of free bowel screening is only 41% which is lower than the national average of 58.5%.

Dr Nicola Weaver, Macmillan GP Clinical Associate for Cancer said: "Colorectal cancer can be treated effectively if caught early enough and people can minimise the risk by following simple advice including diet and exercise.

"Those aged 60 to 74 will be automatically contacted about screening by mail every 2 years, but if you have any symptoms or concerns, contact your GP straight away."

Symptoms can include:

  • persistent blood in the stools – that occurs for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit
  • a persistent change in your bowel habit – which usually means going more often, with looser stools
  • persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort – that's always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss

If you're unsure whether to see your GP, try the bowel cancer symptom checker.

Read more about NHS screening for bowel cancer.

We encourage Southwark residents to seek advice on how to minimise the risk of bowel cancer here. The South East London Cancer Help Centre  also provides an excellent source of advice and support outside the NHS with many of its staff having survived cancer.