Four in ten people in Ireland not aware of signs of bowel cancer

The Irish Cancer Society is once again designating April as national Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and is launching a major awareness campaign encouraging people across Ireland to talk openly about the symptoms associated with the development of bowel cancer.

A recent national survey carried out for the Irish Cancer Society by RED C has shown that four in 10 people claim not to be aware of any of the early warning signs or symptoms of bowel cancer, which include changes in bowel habits; bleeding from the back passage; pain or discomfort in the abdomen (tummy ) or back passage; unexplained weight loss, tiredness, and weakness.

While four in 10 people are not aware of the early warning signs, 95 per cent believe that early diagnosis impacts on chances of successful treatment and recovery. One in three mentioned diet as the most important risk factor for bowel cancer. However, one in three also claim not to know the risk factors which include family history, age, obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking, and alcohol.

Embarrassment about discussing the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer also remains an issue with one in four claiming they would be embarrassed discussing the symptoms of bowel cancer with family, friends, or their GP.

“These results are very worrying as bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland,” said Joan Kelly, nursing services manager at the Irish Cancer Society. “While there is a lack of awareness around the signs and symptoms, 66 per cent of those surveyed believe that bowel cancer is prevalent in Ireland.

“The greatest barrier to the successful treatment of bowel cancer is late diagnosis. The latest data from the NCRI shows that 2,271 people in Ireland were diagnosed in 2009 and more than 50 per cent of those patients were diagnosed with late stage bowel cancer requiring more complex treatment and poorer survival. Early detection saves lives and that’s why the Irish Cancer Society is urging people to learn more about bowel cancer. The longer you leave it, the bigger the problem,” she concluded.

The society is strongly encouraging those concerned about bowel cancer to call the Irish Cancer Society’s National Cancer Helpline on Freefone 1800 200 700, or to visit their GP.

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