Health secretary Sajid Javid urges men over 60 to take up free bowel cancer tests


Abdominal pain is a symptom of bowel cancer (Getty Images)

Abdominal pain is a symptom of bowel cancer (Getty Images)

The health secretary is urging men over the age of 60 to take up the NHS’ free tests for bowel cancer.

Sajid Javid, whose father died of the disease a decade ago, has highlighted that bowel cancer can be cured if caught in the early stages.

Around 43,000 people are diagnosed with the cancer across the UK each year, and it is responsible for 16,5000 deaths annually. It is the second most common cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer.

But the NHS predicts that just one in 20 people would go to the doctor if they had symptoms, with just 47 per cent of men taking up free screening compared to 56 per cent of women.

“I know all too well how devastating this disease is having lost my dad to bowel cancer 10 years ago. If he had been diagnosed earlier, he may still be with us today,” Mr Javid said.

Earlier this year, the government opened a call for evidence to inform an upcoming 10-year cancer plan which will look at how technologies are used in treatment and how to improve patient experiences.

“As well as launching a 10-year Cancer Plan to deliver world-leading cancer care, I want to see more eligible people coming forward for bowel cancer screening, which saves at least 2,500 lives every year,” Mr Javid added.

As bowel cancer is more common in older people, a home testing kit called the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is automatically sent to people aged 60-74 every two years.

The test is quick to use and means that patients do not need to go to hospital for screening.

If the test finds anything unusual, people may be asked to have further tests to confirm or rule out cancer.

The NHS says this regular screening for cancer reduces the risk of dying from bowel cancer by at least 25 per cent.

Earlier this month, research by charity Bowel Cancer UK found that almost half of UK adults cannot name a single symptom of the disease.

A survey of more than 2,000 people found that 45 per cent cannot name any symptoms of the disease, while just 35 per cent could identify the main “red flag” symptom, which is blood in faeces.

Other key symptoms of bowel cancer include a change in bowel habits, pain in the abdomen, unexplained fatigue and weight loss.

The charity said men were less likely to be able to name a symptom, with 55 per cent failing to name any compared to 36 per cent of women.

Additional reporting by PA


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