Sajid Javid has urged more men to take up bowel cancer screening after losing his own father to the disease.
Mr Javid, the Health and Social Care Secretary whose father succumbed to the disease in 2012, has called on men over 60 to speak to their GP about bowel cancer symptoms and take up potentially lifesaving screening tests.
“I know all too well how devastating this disease is having lost my dad to bowel cancer 10 years ago”, he said.
“If he had been diagnosed earlier, he may still be with us today.”
Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year and 16,500 die from it.
Despite the positive outlook with early treatment, one in 20 would go to the doctor if they had symptoms of bowel cancer, including constipation, blood in faeces, stomach cramps, excess gas and bloating, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Low uptake in testing
Dr Lisa Wilde, director of research and external affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, said the low uptake in testing was “shocking,” adding that “nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer but this drops significantly as the disease develops.”
Men are less likely to take up screening than women – 47% compared to 56% of women – despite being more likely to be diagnosed and die from the disease.
There are other disparities, with those from ethnic minority backgrounds and those in more deprived areas having lower take-up rates than the general population.
Screening uptake in the West Midlands and North West ranged from as low as 43% compared to 57% in more affluent areas.
Government’s 10-year plan
Mr Javid said that in addition to the Government’s 10-Year Cancer Plan, designed to boost early testing and reduce healthcare inequalities, and set to be launched this summer, he would like to “see more eligible people coming forward for bowel cancer screening, which saves at least 2,500 lives every year”.
He added: “We have already introduced a new home testing kit for those over 60 to make it easier and more convenient to get checked and screening services have recovered after the pandemic.
“This Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, I urge you to take up the screening offer and speak to your GP if you have health concerns.”