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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

This month (April) is Bowel Cancer Awareness month. This is a great opportunity to emphasise to employees aged over-55 the importance of not being squeamish and taking up the offer of a free NHS bowel check-up.

Employee health and wellbeing – time to get over bowel cancer squeamishness

It would be fair to say that most of us, given the option, would probably prefer not to have a probe put into our rectum. But this month (April) is Bowel Cancer Awareness month and so now is the time to get the message across that, actually, while it may not be pleasant, precisely this sort of screening could save your life if you’re aged over 55 by spotting and picking up signs of bowel cancer early.

Bowel cancer is estimated to be the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, despite the fact that it is eminently treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.

Access to NHS screening

What’s more, the NHS automatically offers a one-off bowel scope screening test for anyone aged over 55, and home testing kits for anyone aged 60 to 74.

A bowel screening test is not painful and it’s quick. It involves a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end being used to look for and remove any polyps inside your bowel.

It is a critical way to detect, and treat, bowel cancer early. As the charities behind the awareness month, Beating Bowel Cancer and Bowel Cancer UK, have pointed out, nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer, but this drops significantly as the disease develops. Their goal is to ensure that by 2050 no-one will die of bowel cancer.

What, then, can employers do here?

First, they can, of course, get involved in activities to promote the awareness month. For example, people are being encouraged to bake cakes and share stories online to raise money and awareness, and it is possible to book awareness-raising talks for your organisation.

Bowel cancer health education

Second, the fact this month is coming up provides a topical platform to include bowel cancer awareness within any health promotion and education messages during April.

Third, and more widely, Bowel Cancer Awareness month is an opportunity to hammer home the message – especially to managers being asked to grant time off – that if people are offered a bowel scope screening test, they should be encouraged to take it up, and given the time and space to do so.

As Dr Lucy Wright, Chief Medical Officer at Optima Health, points out: “People may often feel squeamish about saying yes to a bowel scope screening test, but the importance of being screened if you are aged over-55 cannot be overstated.

“Despite much improved diagnosis, treatment and survival rates for all cancers in recent years, bowel cancer remains a killer, and often unnecessarily so. Much of this is because of people feeling squeamish about it and/or delaying getting checked out.

“Both during Bowel Cancer Awareness month and generally, employers therefore have an important role in play in getting the message across that screening is important and should not be put off, as well as creating an environment that enables people to take the time off they need,” she adds.