Spotting early cancer signs could save lives in Newham

As many as 13 lives could be saved in Newham every year if signs of bowel cancer were spotted early, say health chiefs.

To help with detection they have launched a campaign in the borough which features a unique and very direct approach to tackling bowel cancer.

Attention-grabbing posters and leaflets include images of a toilet and a headline urging people to visit their GP if they spot ‘blood in their poo’ or ‘looser poo for more than three weeks’.

Barts Health NHS Trust consultant oncologist Amen Sibtain, who treats patients at Newham University Hospital, said there is an urgent need for the campaign.

He said: “Bowel cancer survival rates in Newham lag behind the national average, indicating that local people are more likely to be diagnosed when the cancer has reached an advanced stage.

“The good news is that bowel cancer is very easy to treat if it’s caught early.

“Nine out of ten people will survive bowel cancer if it’s diagnosed at an early stage, so it’s vitally important to know the warning signs to look out for.

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“Making that GP appointment if something isn’t quite right could save your life.”

The ‘small c’ bowel cancer campaign was developed following feedback from local people that they wanted a no-nonsense, direct approach to the subject.

Other symptoms that warrant a visit to the GP include unexplained weight loss, tiredness, looking pale or experiencing pain or a lump in the tummy for more than three weeks.

Cancer symptom checklists will appear on leaflets, posters and other publicity materials that will be distributed in GP surgeries and health centres.

Dr Sibtain said: “Traditionally, people might feel a bit embarrassed about discussing bathroom habits, but it is a very normal subject to talk about with your GP.”

One person who knows all too well the importance of detecting bowel cancer early is Edna Medland, 75 from Plaistow.

She was diagnosed with bowel cancer in February 2010. She had been feeling unwell during the winter of that year and after a change in bowel habits, Edna went straight to her local health clinic.

She underwent further tests which confirmed cancer of the bowel. The diagnosis came as a shock as Edna hadn’t been experiencing much pain at all.

She said: “I survived breast cancer in 2002 so it was bad luck for cancer to strike twice but I was so fortunate they caught the bowel cancer early.”

Edna underwent surgery to remove the cancer from her bowel, and luckily, the cancer was diagnosed at an early stage before it had spread. Edna therefore didn’t require any further treatment and has been making the most of her life ever since.

Since her recovery, Edna has focused on relaxing with her partner Robert and her large family including six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

She said: “After surviving two different cancers now I can tell you first-hand that it’s so important for people to visit the doctor if they feel anything is wrong.

“Whatever the problem, putting off a GP visit is not the answer. If you delay it, you just make things worse. If it is cancer, it can spread, so the longer you leave it the more worrying it becomes. You’ll have to see a doctor in the end anyway so there’s no time like the present.”

Bowel cancer in Newham

On average 79 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in Newham, compared to 32,644 people in England.

If Newham’s survival rates matched the best bowel cancer survival rate in England, 13 additional lives could be saved every year.

People should visit their GP if they experience any of the following symptoms:

*Blood in your poo at any time

*Looser poo or going to the toilet more often for over three weeks

*Bloating or an unexplained lump or pain in your tummy for over three weeks8

*Tiredness and looking pale for over three weeks

*Losing weight for no obvious reason

*9 out of 10 people survive bowel cancer if diagnosed at an early stage. However, currently only 9 per cent of patients in the UK are diagnosed at the very earliest stage of the disease.

Screening tests help to detect bowel cancer early, even before people begin to notice symptoms. The risk of bowel cancer increases with age, and people aged 60 to 69 who are registered with a GP will be sent a screening kit every two years. People aged over 70 can request a screening kit by calling 0800 707 60 60.