Around half of adults living in the UK (42%) are not aware of any symptoms of bowel cancer – the UK's second biggest cancer killer and third most common cancer across the East of England.

The disease kills 1,700 people a year in the East of England – that’s around 30 people every week. 

As part of Bowel Cancer Awareness month, Ray Anderson, who co-chairs the region’s Cancer Alliances’ Patient Advisory Board, is urging people to know the warning signs and not to hesitate to see their GP.

In 2010 Ray underwent surgery and chemotherapy after a routine screening test showed warning signs and a follow-up colonoscopy revealed bowel cancer – despite no obvious symptoms.

Eleven years later and in good health, Ray wants everyone to take part in routine screening, which he believes saved his life, and to be more aware of a few simple warning signs:

  • Blood in poo or from the bottom – only a third of people were aware of this in the recent YouGov poll by leading charity, Bowel Cancer UK;
  • Abdominal pain – eleven per cent;
  • Change of bowel habit – nine per cent;
  • Weight loss – eight per cent;
  • Unexplained tiredness or fatigue – three per cent.

Ray said: “Although your symptoms may not be obvious, or you want to explain them away, it is essential to talk to your GP, if only to rule out anything serious.​​​​​​​

“I remain in good health and the various checks, including scans and colonoscopies, have confirmed that I remain free of cancer. I play golf regularly and I enjoy a full and happy life.”

Across the East of England, around 80 patients a week are diagnosed with bowel (colorectal) cancer. The disease is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer but this drops significantly as the disease develops.

Consultant oncologist Professor Peter Hoskin, who is Clinical Lead at the East of England Cancer Alliance, said: “Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the East of England. It is crucial that people get to know the early symptoms and don’t delay checking in with their GP if they have any concerns.”

While the disease largely affects people aged over 50, around 2,500 under 50s are diagnosed across the UK every year, so people of all ages need to know what to look for.

Professor Hoskin said: “Whether it’s abdominal pain, weight loss or any other worrying change that doesn’t feel right, I cannot stress enough how important it is to speak to your GP because if it is cancer, the earlier it is caught the more treatable it is.

“A change in your ‘normal’ bowel habit, including how your stools look or looser or more runny stools, lasting for three weeks or more, could be a sign of bowel cancer.

“We know that the ‘stay at home’ message during the pandemic unintentionally deterred some people from contacting their GP with symptoms of bowel cancer because they didn’t want to burden their doctor or risk catching Covid-19.

“NHS staff across the East of England are continuing to work incredibly hard to keep services running safely and the NHS is there for you – it’s essential that people contact their GP as soon as possible with any concerns.”

For more information about Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, visit Bowel Cancer UK. 


Notes to Editors:  

East of England has two Cancer Alliances, North and South, working together with NHS organisations, local authorities, voluntary and community sector partners, to transform cancer services across the region. 

The Cancer Alliances bring together clinicians, commissioners, patients and members of the local community, to deliver better outcomes for patients through early diagnosis and more integrated and personalised care for all those affected by cancer. 

They also have a key role in supporting pioneering work on latest treatments and prevention of the disease through healthy lives.  

The East of England Cancer Alliances have an active Patient Advisory Board which ensures that the views and experiences of local people affected by cancer are at the heart of their work. 

There are 21 Cancer Alliances in England, working to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan commitments for people affected by cancer.  

The ambitions will be delivered in a way that:  

  • improves quality of life outcomes;  
  • improves patient experience outcomes;  
  • reduces variation; and  
  • reduces inequalities

For more information on this release, contact Gillian Humphrey, Communications Manager, 07702 430031


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