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NHS bowel cancer checks reach record-high following death of Dame Deborah James

Between May and July 2022, over 170,500 people were referred for suspected lower gastro-intestinal cancers – up over 30,000 compared to the same period last year

NHS England

The number of people coming forward for bowel cancer checks has hit a record-high thanks to the ‘lifesaving awareness’ raised by Dame Deborah James, the NHS reported.

Between May and July 2022, over 170,500 people were referred for suspected lower gastro-intestinal cancers – up over 30,000 compared to the same period last year, and nearly 80,000 higher than the same period two years ago.

The NHS said in a statement how Dame Deborah James ‘campaigned tirelessly for more public awareness of bowel cancer and the need to be vigilant about symptoms like blood in your poo' before she died from the disease in June this year.

The last three months also saw almost 200,000 more estimated visitors to the NHS website for the symptoms of bowel cancer compared to the same period last year.

Bowel cancer is England’s fourth most common cancer, with around 37,000 new cases diagnosed each year, the NHS reported, with statistics showing around nine in 20 people with bowel cancer are aged 60 or over. Symptoms can include blood in your poo, a change in bowel habits, persistent lower abdominal pain, unexpected weight loss and fatigue.

Commenting on the surge, Dame Cally Palmer, national cancer director, NHS England, said: “Thanks to the brave and relentless campaigning of Dame Deborah James, bowel cancer has come to the forefront of a national conversation on catching cancer as early as possible, and the fact that we have seen record numbers of people coming forward for bowel cancer checks shows people are taking the illness seriously and speaking to their GPs about it.

“It is so important that we continue the work of Dame Deborah to raise awareness of bowel cancer and save more lives, so to anyone who has noticed symptoms, please do come forward”.

The NHS sets out in its Long Term Plan an ambition that three-quarters of cancers will be diagnosed at stages one or two by 2028, increasing the number of people who survive for five years or more by 55,000 people.

To meet increasing the demand for cancer checks, NHS services across the country are expanding diagnostic capabilities through one-stop shops for tests, mobile clinics and cancer symptom hotlines.

Article by
Emily Kimber

16th August 2022

From: Healthcare

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