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Life-saving campaign launches in London: “your next poo could save your life”

A NHS poster for a bowel cancer screening campaign features a toilet roll with the wording 'Your next poo could save your life'

NHS London is running a lifesaving campaign this summer to encourage more people to do their free NHS bowel cancer screening home test, which checks if they could have bowel cancer.

The campaign, “Your next poo could save your life”, urges people who have been sent a free bowel cancer screening kit to use it.

Cancer was caught early for Simon Clarke, 67, from Hornsey, north London, thanks to bowel cancer screening.

Simon was investigated after his bowel cancer screening test and, in November 2021, polyps – little growths – were removed from his bowel.

He said: “I wasn’t particularly worried. I’ve always had the attitude it wouldn’t be me that gets ill.

“But when they analysed the polyps, cancer was in one of them. They caught it as a very minor tumour, and it hadn’t spread. Without the screening I wouldn’t have known it was there.

“I’d say to other people: use the bowel cancer screening kit when you’re sent it, because if it catches something early like it did with me, it could save your life.”

London Director of Public Health, Professor Kevin Fenton said: “Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers. Anyone can get it. In the UK, 43,000 people are diagnosed with it and over 16,500 people die from it each year – more than 45 a day.

“Screening – which you do in private at home – can help prevent bowel cancer or find it at an early stage when it’s easier to treat. Those who complete bowel cancer screening are 25% less likely to die of bowel cancer.

“That’s why the NHS sends out free bowel cancer screening kits to use at home. They are for people with no symptoms and most people do not require any further investigations. If you are sent a kit, please use it.”

The campaign “Your next poo could save your life” aims to increase uptake of bowel cancer screening across London. It is particularly focusing on those who are less likely to do the test: men, people sent the bowel screening kit for the first time, people in deprived areas, people from some ethnic and faith communities, and people with a learning disability.

It will use street and community advertising, radio ads, social media, and focused community engagement in London to get the message out. For more information, videos, case studies and campaign resources, visit healthylondon.org/BCS.

Bowel cancer screening fact file

  • The faecal immunochemical test (FIT) kit is available for people for people aged 60-74 years as part of the NHS Bowel cancer screening programme. The programme expanded from April 2021 to include 56-year-olds, with 58-year-olds to be included from 2022. They are then automatically sent one every two years until they’re 74. 
     
  • To do the test, you use the kit to collect a small sample of poo and send it to a lab (no stamp is needed). The sample is checked for tiny amounts of blood. Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are growths in the bowel. They are not cancer but may turn into cancer over time. 
  • About 98 out of 100 people who use their NHS bowel cancer screening kit need no further tests. About two out of 100 are asked to go to hospital for further tests. Nine out of 100 people who have these further tests (nine in 5,000 of those who use their kits) turn out to have cancer. 
  • If people have symptoms of bowel cancer at any age, they should always see a GP, even if they have recently completed an NHS bowel screening test. 
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