The Irish Cancer Society designated April as national Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and is launching a major awareness campaign encouraging people across Ireland to talk openly about the symptoms associated with the development of bowel cancer.
The year the awareness months comes shortly after it was announced that South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel is a ‘candidate’ site to deliver colon cancer screening by the National Cancer Screening Service, as part of Ireland’s first national population-based colorectal cancer screening programme. The programme is planned to be available to men and women aged 60-69 in 2012.
STGH is one of 15 candidate colonoscopy units nationally.
Latest data from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland shows that 47 in Tipperary South were diagnosed in 2009 with bowel cancer. While that is the most recent year for which full statistics are available the Irish Cancer Society says cases have increased since then.
Four in ten Irish people are still not aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer, according to a recent national survey carried out for the Irish Cancer Society.
While four in ten people are not aware of the early warning signs, 95% believe that early diagnosis impacts on chances of successful treatment and recovery.
Embarrassment about discussing the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer also remains an issue with one in four claiming they would be embarrassed discussing the symptoms of bowel cancer with family, friends, or their GP.
Joan Kelly, Nursing Services Manager at the Irish Cancer Society said - “These results are very worrying as bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland.
“The greatest barrier to the successful treatment of bowel cancer is late diagnosis. The latest data from the NCRI shows that 2,271 people in Ireland were diagnosed in 2009 and more than 50% of those patients were diagnosed with late stage bowel cancer requiring more complex treatment and poorer survival. Early detection saves lives and that’s why the Irish Cancer Society is urging people to learn more about bowel cancer. The longer you leave it, the bigger the problem,” she stressed.
The Society is strongly encouraging those concerned about bowel cancer to call the Irish Cancer Society’s National Cancer Helpline on Freefone 1800 200 700, or to visit their GP. Through the National Cancer Helpline they support patients and their families at every stage of their cancer journey and anyone with any concerns can ring in confidence and speak to a specialist nurse. More than a third of callers are not cancer sufferers. You can call in complete confidence and at no cost.
Even if you have not had a diagnosis you can ring to discuss the signs and symptoms, or just to talk about your concerns before you see your own doctor. Joan told The Nationalist that anyone who is concerned about their symptoms or with having to wait to see a specialist can also call the helpline and specialist nurses can give people the language to use so they can explain their concerns to medics.
Symptoms can also be a sign of other medical problems, other than cancer, for which it would also be important to see your GP.
The Irish Cancer Society website has further information and even a podcast explaining what to expect when you visit your doctor for a consultation.
The warning signs for bowel cancer include: Change in bowel habits lasting more than a month; Bleeding from the back passage; Regular feeling of trapped wind or fullness in the stomach area; Feeling as though there is something left to pass even after bowel movement; Pain or discomfort in stomach area or back passage; Weight loss for no apparent reason; Ongoing tiredness or weakness.
Bowel cancer risk factors include: Age; Having a family history of bowel cancer; Having a family history of polyps (abnormal growths of tissue in the lining of the bowel); Having a diet which is high in fat and low in fruit, vegetables and fibre; Lack of physical activity; Obesity; Alcohol; and Smoking.