Time to beat the blushes and ask for advice

People experiencing bowel problems are being urged to beat the blushes and come forward for help this Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

Members of the Bowel Cancer Screening Service at Hull Pride

While toilet issues and tummy troubles aren’t often seen as hot topics of conversation, they can often be the first signs that someone has a problem, and as bowel cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK*, they’re signs that shouldn’t be ignored.

When the national bowel cancer screening programme originally launched back in 2006, adults aged between 60 and 74 were invited to take part. Fast forward to the present day, and the Humber and Yorkshire Coast Bowel Cancer Screening Service (HYCBSS) now invites people as young as 54 to take part, with plans to roll that back further to 52 and 50 later this year. And the signs are that this is having an impact.

Mark Hughes, Clinical Director for HYCBSS says: “Incidence of cancer across our region tends to be higher due to health inequalities, and that includes the number of people diagnosed with bowel cancer. Since we began inviting people aged 54 to 60 for screening in 2023, we have diagnosed 52 of those with cancer or with multiple polyps that could have turned into cancer. That means the extension of the programme is not only having a positive, potentially life-saving impact on people in our region, but also on their families and loved ones too. By the end of March 2025, the aim is to extend screening further to people as young as 50.

“Screening invitations and home test kits are issued once every two years. The process is quick and simple, and you simply post the kit off once you’re done. While the main aim is to look for signs of bowel cancer, the test results also help us to identify polyps and other potential issues as a result of people taking part in the programme.

“People like Bowel Babe have helped massively in raising awareness of bowel cancer in recent years, and of bowel cancer in younger people, but it’s important that everyone knows what to look for and gets any changes or unusual symptoms checked out early. Bowel cancer survival rates are really good if the disease is caught and treated early, so if you’ve been experiencing issues when going to the toilet and you’re worried about asking for help, please don’t be; there’s really nothing to be embarrassed about.”

Members of the Humber and Yorkshire Coast Bowel Cancer Screening Team will be available for advice and information at the upcoming Science of Digestion event taking place next month. The event, organised by Hull Hospitals working together with the Guts UK charity, will give the public, patients and professionals the chance to learn more about a variety of digestive diseases, such as Crohn’s and Colitis, IBD, liver disease, bowel and pancreatic cancers, and be able to put their questions to the experts.

The Science of Digestion event is free to attend and will take place from 5:30pm on Tuesday 14 May at Hull’s Guildhall. More information is available via Eventbrite where you can also register for free – simply search ‘Science of Digestion Hull’ or visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/science-of-digestion-registration-807586522027