The second most common cause of cancer death in the UK

As more people live longer in Northamptonshire, local NHS leaders are urging older patients not to put their health at risk by opting out of bowel cancer screening.

It is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. And April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.


Dr Matthew Davies, a GP and Board member of Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Someone dies from bowel cancer in the UK every thirty minutes. It seems unthinkable doesn't it, especially when bowel cancer is treatable when diagnosed at an early stage. So we urge patients, especially those over 60 who are most at risk, to accept their invitation to the screening process when it arrives. It could save their lives.”


Bowel cancer occurs when the cells in the bowel multiply and attack the surrounding tissue - which can then spread to the other parts of the body. It is also called colon cancer.


Dr  Matthew Davies added: “If treated early there is a very good chance of recovery. The only problem is that only 9% of patients are diagnosed at the early stage. That's why accepting the invitation to take part in screening is so vital.”

The symptoms of bowel cancer can be:

  • bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • a change in bowel habit for three weeks or more especially looser or runny poo
  • unexplained weight loss
  • extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • a pain or lump in your tummy

Patients might experience one, some, all of the above or no symptoms at all. Most symptoms will not be bowel cancer. People who are worried about any symptoms that might be caused by bowel cancer, should make an appointment with their GP.


Patients aged 60 to  69 will automatically be sent an invitation and a screening kit to do the test at home. Patients aged 70 to 74 can request a screening kit by calling the free phone helpline 0800 707 6060. The testing kit is a very simple way to collect small samples on a special card in your own home. There are clear instructions sent with the kit. You then send the card in a hygienically sealed, prepaid envelope to a laboratory for testing. You will be sent the results of your test by post within two weeks.

Dr  Matthew Davies added: “Just remember you'll not be wasting anyone's time by getting checked out. If it isn't serious, you'll put your mind at rest. If it's bowel cancer, early detection can make all the difference. Over 90% who are diagnosed at the earliest stage are successfully treated. So a trip to your doctor could save your life.”