There are lots of pluses to living in the Brighton area and one of them is good for your health. An additional level of screening for bowel cancer has been rolled out across this region that will help save lives. In the middle of Bowel Cancer Awareness month, The Montefiore’s colorectal surgeon, Mr Tony Miles, urges people to take the test.
In America, going for bowel cancer screening is as natural as aging. As soon as people reach 50, they are offered a colonoscopy (a flexible camera test of the bowel) then again at 60 and 70 with an additional bowel scope test at 55, 65 and 75. Plus they have regular stool testing. It has become part of their normal GP and hospital visits.
This vigorous programme picks up signs of cancer early, ensuring more successful treatment, and treatments that are less invasive enabling survivors to lead normal lives.
Here in the UK, we have the postal screening test, sent every two years to people aged between 60 and 74, but still only about a third of people who receive it go on to complete it.
More recently, the NHS has begun to roll out an additional layer of testing for people aged 55, and the Brighton area is one of the first regions to go live.
It is called Flexible Sigmoidoscopy, or Bowel Scope Test, and although it only checks the left half of the colon, unlike the more complete colonoscopy, it still reduces the risk of developing cancer by 35%.
It is not a painful procedure and is over in less than 15 minutes. If you are registered with a GP, you will be sent an automatic invitation around your 55th birthday and I urge Brighton and Hove citizens that this is one invite they cannot ignore. According to Bowel Cancer UK, every 30 minutes someone dies from bowel cancer, but early diagnosis saves lives.
Look out for symptoms
As well as screening, look out for changes in your bowel habit. If you have looser stools that lasts for two weeks, or blood in your poo, make an appointment with your GP immediately.
The risk factors for bowel cancer include:
- Aged over 50.
- A strong family history of bowel cancer.
- A history of non-cancerous growths (polyps) in your bowel.
- Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis.
- An unhealthy diet and lifestyle
You can reduce your risk of cancer by:
- stopping smoking
- limiting your intake of alcohol and processed meats
- increasing the amount of fibre, fish, fruit and vegetables in your diet.
- Keeping your weight down
- Taking a junior aspirin every day from the age of 55 (if your GP agrees it is safe for you)
Early detection means better treatments:
Catching cancer early means patients have more options when it comes to treatment. Some early cancers can be removed leaving the colon or rectum intact, such as Trans Anal Minimally Invasive Surgery (TAMIS). This is a new procedure which can remove early cancers from the rectum via a local incision. The patient retains full function of their bowel and rectum after surgery with very much lower risk of complications. This technique is only suitable for early cancer and so early detection is very important.
Advice from Mr Tony Miles, consultant colorectal surgeon who holds clinics at The Montefiore Hospital, Hove on Mondays. For more information visit www.themontefiorehospital.co.uk or phone 01273 828 148