It’s Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and so I thought I ought to say a few words about the uncomfortable subject of talking about poo. My father died of bowel cancer and I’m fairly sure part of the reason is that he left it far longer than he should have to discuss his symptoms with first my mother and then his GP. He endured an operation, followed by oral chemotherapy, followed by another operation, but sadly they didn’t catch all of it in time.

Jeremy Bowen has bravely come out to talk about how he is currently undergoing treatment for bowel cancer and is trying to encourage everyone to go and get tested if you’re over 50 or you have any symptoms. He says “don’t die of embarrassment” and he is so right.

We are, as a nation very squeamish and private about talking about poo and I wonder if that is partly the reason why we are 17th on the list in Europe and 30th in the world for our success rate in treating this form of cancer. Of course it’s an unpleasant subject and most of us don’t want to talk about poo. It’s easy when discussing the consistency of your children’s poo when you are responsible for wiping their bums, but that’s it. I imagine the other reason for being woefully behind in picking it up early is that we don’t have the right screening plan in progress and apparently the long awaited NHS home faeces testing kit has not yet been implemented. WHY NOT??

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK but if it’s caught early enough 9 in 10 people survive for at least 5 years, if it’s found in it’s late stages then only 1 in 10 survive for that same length of time.

THE SYMPTOMS

Going to the loo more often
Change of consistency of the poo
Blood in the poo
Abdominal pain and bloating

If you’ve had any of the above symptoms for more than four weeks then go and see your GP.

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  1. The NHS are now screening everyone from 55 …and it isn’t as bad as all that (as you say just get over the embarrassment…the doctors and nurses are just v relaxed about it!!) just don’t ignore the letter – all free and v reassuring (something to look forward to on your 55th!) xx

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