AS bowel cancer awareness month draws to a close, nurses at East Lancashire NHS Hospitals Trust are warning that a reluctance to talk about bowel problems could be costing lives.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in men and the second most prevalent in women in England.

If diagnosed early, the chance of surviving over five years is 90 per cent.

If left late, just six per cent can expect to live for another five years with a complete cure extremely unlikely.

In East Lancashire 226 people were treated for newly diagnosed colorectal cancer in 2012/13 and more than 200 patients were screened for bowel cancer at the Royal Blackburn Hospital last year.

The rate over the last three years has been stable at around the 200-250 mark.

Figures show that in Lancashire, rates of colorectal cancer are 49.9 cases per 100,000 population, slightly above the UK average of 47.7.

Nurses at Royal Blackburn Hospital are using the month to promote the message: Be seen, be screened.

Andrea Darbyshire, Colorectal Nurse Specialist at the East Lancashire NHS Hospital Trust, said: “Some people still tend to put worries about their bowels to the back of their minds and don’t want to talk about it, but it is very treatable, especially if caught early.”

Symptoms include unexplained weight loss, a pain or lump in your tummy and bleeding from the bottom.

Cutting down on smoking and red meat, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, plus doing more exercise can help reduce the risk of bowel problems. Currently everyone between 60 and 69 in the UK is offered bowel cancer screening but one of the core themes of the month is that problems can also affect younger people (the Never Too Young campaign).

Andrea added: “If you do experience symptoms, the chances are it is nothing. But don’t put off visiting your GP and make sure you get it checked out.” Learn more at

To discover more about the East Lancashire Bowel Open Workshops for recovering patients, ring 01282 619085.