Expect more consultations in cancer campaign, GPs told

The government has launched its bowel cancer awareness campaign on Monday, with practices told to expect an increase in patients presenting and to make more urgent referrals.

Mr Burstow: 'Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer so we need to get over the embarrassment and talk to someone about it.'
Mr Burstow: 'Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer so we need to get over the embarrassment and talk to someone about it.'

The national Be Clear On Cancer campaign will run for nine weeks through television, radio and newspaper adverts, costing £8.5m.

The public will be advised to speak to their GP as soon as possible if they have had blood in their 'poo' or looser stools for three weeks or more.

The NHS has been gearing up for the 15,000 extra colonoscopies expected across England, equating to around an extra 100 per average NHS trust.

An average-sized GP practice should expect around one extra patient a week as a result of the campaign.

Last year, a pilot in the East of England and the south west saw a 32% increase in two-week wait colorectal referrals to secondary care over six months. Endoscopy referrals in some areas rose by 100%.

But charities have warned that endoscopy services are already 'over-stretched'. Bowel Cancer UK urged the DH and commissioners 'to invest in adequate endoscopy services and to enable GPs to make full use of them'.

Yorkshire GP Dr Nick Summerton, DH cancer adviser and RCGP clinical champion, had also warned that capacity for colonoscopy was already 'at its limit'.

Care services minister Paul Burstow said: 'No one likes talking about their poo – it’s embarrassing. But bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer so we need to get over the embarrassment and talk to someone about it.

'The Be Clear on Cancer campaign uses simple messages to make people aware of the key symptoms of bowel cancer and to give them the confidence to talk to their GP if they notice the symptoms.

'No matter how embarrassing it is, talking to your GP can help save your life.'

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: 'Bowel cancer is currently the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. If people respond to this campaign – and take up bowel screening when invited to do so – we have a chance of pushing bowel cancer well down the league table of killers.'

Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: 'Bowel cancer can be beaten if diagnosed early. Most changes in bowel habits probably won’t be cancer but if they are it is much better to be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.'

Currently around 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK, and 16,000 die from the disease.

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