Why should you get screened for bowel cancer at the age of 60 or before?
Almost nine out of ten bowel cancer patients are over the age of 60.* A bowel cancer screening kit is one of the most valuable gifts that people of this age can give to themselves. There are plans in England to expand the program to screen people as young as 50 years.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United Kingdom and the third most common cancer globally.* Bowel cancer screening detects cancer or any bowel lesion before it progresses to cancer. Therefore, a timely diagnosis and treatment will not only reduce death rates but will also improve the quality of life for cancer survivors.
Do we need to pay for the screening test?
Several countries, including the UK, provide free bowel cancer screenings. Unfortunately, people are not proactive about screening programmes and frequently wait until they experience symptoms. Blood in the stool, changes in bowel habits, and sudden weight loss are some of the most common symptoms of bowel cancer. Such presentations follow battery of non-invasive and invasive investigations. Not only it exhausts people physically and mentally, but also drains them financially.
What are the chances of survival once you are diagnosed with bowel cancer ?**
When diagnosed at an early stage, the chances of survival are better, but life does not return to normal as quickly. About 90 out of 100 people (about 90%) with stage 1 bowel cancer survive their cancer 5 years or more after diagnosis. Unfortunately, not more than 10% of people with stage 4 bowel cancer survive their cancer for 5 years or more.
Where can we get a screening kit?
A bowel cancer screening kit is provided to people over 60 who are registered with a general practitioner. Using the kit’s instructions, one can perform this test at home. Add your poop to a FIT kit which is a faecal immunochemical test kit and send it to the lab. This test detects blood in stool, which the eyes can sometimes miss. A test is negative if there is no blood in the poop. However, a positive test shows blood in faeces and it requires further investigations.
In this new era of molecular and genetic testing, we can confidently say that cancer screening is better than cancer treatment. Despite the fact that faeces is a waste product, it can reveal a lot about your health. At the end of the day, if you’re healthy, age is just a number. So say “YES” to bowel cancer screening on or before your 60th birthday !
My name is Rajni. I am an aspiring medical writer. I am a pathologist with an additional master’s degree in molecular pathology of cancer from Queen’s University, Belfast , UK. I have an interest as well as knowledge in the field of pathophysiology of diseases, and recent advances in molecular technologies. My thesis on the analysis of next-generation sequencing gives insight into the future of molecular diagnostics. Topics that interest me include the diagnostic aspect of diseases, the role of genetic testing in cancer prevention and diagnosis, digital pathology and novel diagnostic technologies.