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Cancer charity appeals to the public to “Join The Bowel Movement” to help reduce mortality rates of bowel cancer this April

This Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, the Marie Keating Foundation is asking the public to get to know bowel cancer’s signs and symptoms, to speak to their GP if they notice a change in their bathroom habits, and take up their FIT test from BowelScreen when it arrives.

5th April 2022: Bowel cancer, or colorectal cancer, is the second largest contributor to cancer death in Ireland, accounting for 12% of cancer deaths in men, and 10% in women according to the most recent figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI)[1].

However, when caught early bowel cancer is very treatable and five-year survival rates currently stand at just over 65% [2]. This Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, the Marie Keating Foundation, supported by Servier Ireland, is asking the public to help improve bowel cancer’s survival rates and reduce the 1,002 deaths annually[3], by making themselves aware of bowel cancer’s early signs and symptoms and by going to see their GP if they are concerned or notice any of the following:  bleeding from the back passage or a change in their normal bowel habit for more than 6 weeks, unexplained weight loss, pain in the abdomen or back passage or a feeling of straining as if you need to go to the toilet even after opening your bowels. Anyone aged between 60 – 69 should also make sure that they are registered with our national screening programme for bowel cancer – BowelScreen

Consultant Medical Oncologist, Dr Gregory Leonard from Galway University Hospital says more can be done to improve survival rates “Bowel cancer, when detected early is very treatable. Unfortunately, many people don’t know or ignore the warning signs of bowel cancer until it’s too late. In my experience with diagnosing and treating bowel cancer, the earlier we see patients the better the outcome. I fully support the Foundation’s call for people to Join the Bowel Movement and make bowel cancer and its symptoms a part of the conversation when it comes to looking out for your health.”

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Ireland after non-melanoma skin cancer, affecting over 2,690 people each year. Bowel cancer accounts for over 12% of the 200,000 cancer survivors living in Ireland today[4]. An important tool in improving the early detection and prevention of bowel cancer is encouraging eligible members of the public to take part in Ireland’s national screening programme , BowelScreen, when they  turn 60.

Uptake of the BowelScreen at home FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) kits rose by almost 10% in 2021 (January to September), with over 51.5% of those invited to complete a FIT test, returning testable samples. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions, those eligible for BowelScreen are now looking at an additional one year wait for screening, meaning the interval to be sent a FIT kit has increased from every two years to every three.

With these delays it is more important than ever that the public are aware of what symptoms to look out for and by “Joining the Bowel Movement” the Marie Keating Foundation is encouraging everyone to get to know the early warning signs of bowel cancer so that when you notice a change, you can speak to your GP without delay.

Bowel cancer survivor Paddy O’Leary, took up his invitation to BowelScreen on a whim and it ended up saving his life.

‘I was blessed that I did my BowelScreen test when it arrived, because I truly had no symptoms. If I hadn’t, who knows if I would be here today. I would encourage everyone to get to know the signs of bowel cancer, and to do the test when it comes to your door. Really and truly, forget the abhorrence of thinking about poo and just do the test. It’s simple and takes just a few minutes and you do it in your own bathroom. I’m living proof that it’s worth it.’

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of bowel cancer are running at about 20%[5] lower than what would normally be expected.

Assistant Director of Nursing Services at the Marie Keating Foundation, Bernie Carter outlines why awareness is important now more than ever “during the course of the pandemic we know lots of people were afraid to visit their GP. Cancer screening was also impacted. The recent NCRI annual report is the first evidence of the impact of COVID on cancer cases and the figures are frightening. If bowel cancer cases are down by about 20% on what would normally be expected pre the Covid pandemic, then it is possible that those cancers may be diagnosed at a later stage. This is why it is important that, now more than ever, as many people as possible get behind this Marie Keating Foundation ‘Join the Bowel Movement’ campaign, which aims to increase awareness and understanding of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer. Let’s all have an open and honest conversation about bowel cancer this April.”

To learn more about the Foundation’s “Join the Bowel Movement” campaign click here