Health secretary urges bowel cancer screening for over-60s

UK health secretary Sajid Javid has publicly urged the over-60s, men in particular, to be screened for bowel cancer. Mr Javid’s own father passed away after a battle with bowel cancer in March 2012. 

April is bowel cancer awareness month. To help raise awareness and encourage people to get tested, Mr Javid spoke out about his own experience with the disease through his father. Mr Javid told the Daily Express: "This month holds a lot of significance for me - not only because we tragically lose too many people to this disease before their time, but because one of those people was my dad. By the time he was diagnosed aged 71, it was too late.” 

After his father didn’t take the early signs of the disease seriously, Mr Javid is urging people with potential symptoms to visit their GP or take a home testing kit as soon as possible. His statement emphasises that early diagnosis increases the chance of being cured. 

According to Cancer Research UK, bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK and affects almost 43,000 people each year. It also has one of the highest rates of preventable cases, with 54 per cent of cases being avoidable with early detection. 

In the UK, only one in 20 people will go to the doctor if they begin to experience symptoms of bowel cancer according to the NHS. Men are also less likely to go, with only 47 per cent taking up screening compared to 56 per cent of women. 

As of 2019, home screening Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kits have been sent out to people aged 60-74 every two years. Mr Javid said: "I urge you to take it - it's simple to do and it could save your life."

Later this year, the government is set to outline its Ten-year Cancer Plan, which will focus on improving early diagnoses and tackling healthcare disparities and inequalities. It’s also investing £2.3 billion to open 160 Community Diagnostic Centres to provide patients with rapid access to tests and checks. 

Regular screenings and symptom recognition can help to diagnose bowel cancer in its early stages, improving the chances of survival for those affected.