Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: How can you help?

By Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and we’d like to take the opportunity to remind you about the vital role that pharmacists play in our fight to beat bowel cancer. It is the second biggest cancer killer, but over 90% of cases can be treated successfully if caught in the initial stages, so early detection really does save lives. This is why pharmacists are fundamental in identifying patients who haven’t recognised their symptoms might be cancer or are too embarrassed to visit their GP.

Guidance developed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Beating Bowel Cancer gives practical advice and information about bowel cancer and what to look out for. Some of the key symptoms of bowel cancer include a persistent change in bowel habit or looser poo and bleeding from the bottom for three weeks or more. Pharmacists can help to identify people who might be self-medicating to ease their symptoms, without realising it could be something more serious.

Whilst talking about bottoms, bowels and poo can cause awkwardness, we know that people are dying of embarrassment by delaying talking to their GP about their symptoms. Recent research revealed that “Britain’s stiff upper lip” culture may explain why we lag behind other countries when it comes to beating cancer. We often hear from patients who didn’t want to go to their doctor through embarrassment or fear of wasting a doctor’s time.

That’s why the role of the Pharmacist in the community is so important. They are ideally placed to help those worried about symptoms and are used to talking about such issues; there is no need for embarrassment. Pharmacists can help ease someone’s discomfort by talking to them in the private consultation area and making people more aware of the symptoms to look out for. Our website has a wealth of information, booklets and factsheets about all aspects of bowel cancer for both patients and pharmacists.

One in four of us are touched by bowel cancer in some way, either directly or through a family member or friend. During Bowel Cancer Awareness Month we’re encouraging all those affected to join our ‘Bowel Movement’. We want everyone to talk openly about bowel cancer and work together to help beat the disease. Whether it’s raising money or helping spread the word about bowel cancer, by simply talking to people about it, it will make a real difference.

You can find out more about how to get involved on our website: www.beatingbowelcancer.org/bowelmovement. It’s only by committing to take action together, that we can truly make changes to beat bowel cancer forever.