Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland after lung and breast cancer. Every year, almost 4,000 people are diagnosed with the disease. For men the risk of getting colorectal cancer over the age of 50 is 1 in 18 (5.5%) and for women the equivalent risk is 1 in 22 (4.5%). Bowel cancer is easier to treat the earlier it is diagnosed. The survival rate is more than 90% over five years when diagnosed at the earliest stage, compared to under 10% over five years at the most advanced stage.
The Scottish Bowel Screening Programme has been introduced to increase the number of patients being diagnosed at the earliest stages. The Screening Programme invites all men and women in Scotland between the ages of 50 to 74 for screening every two years. The letter is sent to your address, soon after your 50th birthday, and then every 2 years until you are 75. The address used to send you your kit is the address you have given to register here at Bruntsfield Medical Practice. Please ensure you keep your address up-to-date with us if you move.
The screening test is a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBt). The testing kit is sent by post, along with step-by-step instructions on how to use it (leaflet also linked at the end of this article). You complete the test at home and return it by Freepost to the national Bowel Screening Centre for Scotland. This test detects blood within your stool, which you are not able to see. You will also receive your results within two weeks, directly to your address.
Most test results are negative, however if the results of the test is positive, you will be referred to hospital for further assessment, and if appropriate, may be offered a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is the most effective test for detecting bowel cancer. The bowel is looked at directly, using a flexible tube with a camera, in an outpatient setting.
If you have lost your kit, or did not receive one, and are eligible for the Screening Programme, another kit can be requested by ringing the Scottish Bowel Screening Helpline: 0800 0121 833. This is also the number for further information.
Possible Symptoms of Bowel Cancer are:
- Repeated bleeding from your bottom or blood in your motions.
- A recent change in bowel habit that goes on day in day out for over 6 weeks without going back to normal.
- Looser motions or alternating with constipation (constipation alone is less likely to be serious).
- Pains in the tummy that are severe, continual and have started recently, especially after eating.
- You have recently lost weight without trying.
- You have been told that you are anaemic or look pale and feel tired much of the time.
These symptoms may be caused by a number of conditions including cancer but, if you have any of the above, make an appointment to see your doctor. As no screening test is 100% accurate, even after a negative screening test result, don’t ignore the above symptoms.
Scottish Bowel Screening Helpline 0800 0121 833