Bowel screening saves lives


A groundbreaking campaign has been launched to encourage people between the ages of 50 and 74 to participate in bowel screening.

The advert features the voice of Still Game star Ford Kiernan speaking to a man sitting on the toilet, encouraging him to take the bowel screening test.

It carries the message ‘Bowel Cancer. Don’t Take A Chance. Take The Test’ and aims to highlight the fact that bowel cancer is a ‘hidden’ cancer, because the early signs are often not visible.

It also promotes the message that nine out of 10 people will survive bowel cancer if it is detected early.

The drive comes on the back of the Scottish Government’s widely successful breast cancer campaign, featuring Elaine C Smith, which has received over 130,000 views on youtube – the most for any Scottish Government video.

The breast cancer advert has proven to be influential, with over half of women aged over 45 who saw it taking action as a result, such as checking their breasts.

In addition, from April 2013, the bowel screening programme is being extended so that those over the age of 74 will be able to request a screening kit every two years.

Health Secretary Alex Neil met with bowel cancer survivors John Withers and Lynn Faulds Wood today (Monday) to officially launch the bowel cancer campaign.

Mr Neil said: “Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland.  A lot of people are unaware that the early signs of bowel cancer can be hidden and that participating in the bowel screening programme gives the best chance of detecting cancer early.

“The earlier bowel cancer is detected the easier it is to treat and the better the chance of a successful outcome. That is why bowel screening is so important.

“I would urge all men and women, between 50 and 74 to do their screening test when it comes through their door.”

Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns added:

“More lives can be saved in Scotland through earlier detection, as the cancer can be treated earlier when it is less aggressive and treatment is more likely to be successful.

“I hope that this campaign will get people talking about bowel screening, and show that screening is the most effective way of detecting bowel cancer early.”

It is part of the Scottish Government’s £30 million Detect Cancer Early drive, which aims to increase the early detection of cancer by 25 per cent.

John Withers, 64, is a retired civil engineer and lives in Kippford, Dumfries and Galloway.

The grandfather of two was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and had his colon removed after taking part in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme.

John said: “I would not have known that I had bowel cancer until it was very advanced if it hadn’t been for the screening programme.

“There is no doubt that the bowel screening programme saved my life. I feel very lucky that my birthday triggered the test. I have become a strong advocate for the screening programme and my experience has inspired friends and colleagues to take the test.

“My advice to others is not to be frightened or put off by the bowel screening test. I understand that some people, particularly men, can have an issue with taking a sample but it’s not difficult and those few minutes doing it could save your life. Cancer is not as scary as it once was and it can be very treatable so don’t put off taking the test.”

Television presenter and bowel cancer survivor Lynn Faulds Wood met with Mr Neil today to give her backing to the campaign.

She said: “When I was the presenter of BBC Watchdog, I was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer – my son was just three.  It’s a terrible, cruel cancer and it is wonderful that Scotland is offering free screening from aged 50.  I regularly hear from people who have been diagnosed with late stage bowel cancer who fear they are going to die – and some received kits but did not use them. I urge everyone – if you are sent a kit, use it – it might save your life.”

Celebrity Sharon Osbourne, who survived bowel cancer, has also given her support.

She said: “We’ve all got a bum and we all poo so everyone is the same. The sooner bowel cancer is detected, the better the chances of survival. That’s why everyone needs to participate in the screening programme and learn about the symptoms and go straight to the doctor if you are worried about anything because early detection can save your life.”

Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK added:

She said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Detect Cancer Early awareness campaign. Bowel cancer is very treatable especially if diagnosed at an early stage.

“This is why it is so important that if anyone receives a screening kit that they use it and return it. Bowel cancer screening really does save lives.”

Only 54.5 per cent of those people invited, participate in the bowel screening programme.

However, statistics show that people are 45 per cent more likely to survive bowel cancer compared to 30 years ago.

The five year survival rate for bowel cancer increased from 37 per cent between 1983 to 1987, to 54 per cent between 2003 and 2007.

Currently the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme invites all men and women in Scotland aged 50 – 74 to participate in screening every two years.

From April 2013, the programme will be extended so that those over the age of 74 will be able to self-refer every two years by requesting a screening kit through the Scottish Bowel Screening Helpline.