FOLLOWING news that more than 24 people are diagnosed and eight die from bowel cancer in the Banbridge District Council area every year Action Cancer is urging people ‘not to sit on their symptoms’.
During Bowel Cancer Awareness month - April - the Northern Ireland cancer charity is encouraging men and women across Northern Ireland to be aware of the symptoms of the disease and to seek advice immediately if they have any concerns.
Local councillor Sheila McQuaid, who was diagnosed with the disease a number of years ago and underwent a colostomy as a result, spoke passionately to the Leader, urging people to have any symptoms checked out.
“I would encourage anyone, male or female, who notices a change in themselves or thinks something is not quite right to go to their doctor.
“The recovery rate for bowel cancer, if caught early, is excellent. The treatment and standard of medical care here is very good so it is advisable to get things checked out as soon as you notice something. It might not be cancer - but it is better to have it checke dout.”
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% 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.
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 visit www.cancerscreening.hscni.net/.