GP’S ADVICE: Bowel cancer survival rates are fantastic if caught early
GP’S ADVICE: Bowel cancer survival rates are fantastic if caught early

The message is clear: kit is life-saving

Dr Elaine James – a GP from Yeadon Tarn Medical Practice and Macmillan funded GP Cancer Lead for Leeds – has said that bowel cancer kits which are delivered to your door in the post can mean the difference between life and death.

She said: “Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer and fourth most common cancer. If it’s picked up early, the survival rate is very good. 97% will survive for more than five years.”

However, older men from the Asian community in the Leeds areas of Chapeltown and Harehills are reluctant to do the test. Bowel cancer screening uptake in Chapeltown and Harehills is only 39%, compared to Chapel Allerton, which has a 51% uptake.

Elaine continued: “People think it will never happen to them. But one in every 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime. Bowel cancer is especially common in the over 60’s age-group. However, 54% of cases are preventable.

Bowel Cancer Champions working in the local GP practices say that male Asians are especially reluctant to use the kits. Why this has become the case is not clear, but it could be linked to their faith or beliefs, or perhaps not understanding the kit instructions.

Elaine explained that a pilot study was conducted in London where people were sent a kit with a pair of gloves and a paper towel that fitted around the toilet seat. The improved hygiene of the kits helped boost the numbers of people checking themselves for signs.

So what’s in the kit? It includes a sample collection card, six cardboard sticks, a foil-lined envelope and an instruction booklet.

Testers will have a motion, catch it in a container or on toilet paper and then use the cardboard sticks to smear the samples onto the card. Then it has to be sealed into the foil lined envelope and posted for free.

It couldn’t be easier.

The results are sent back in around two weeks. If it is negative (clear), another test will be sent again in two years.

If the test is positive (blood has been detected), further tests will be needed. A positive test does not necessarily mean a cancer diagnosis.

Please do not hesitate to contact your local GP surgery if you have any concerns.