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Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

World Cancer Day – time to reflect on cancer prevention

Initially, the headline sounded good… “Decrease in the numbers of cancers diagnosed” – until you read the sub-title about diminished screening services, fear of going to GP’s and reduced access to diagnostic facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic (ScotGov2021)

If only we could decrease the numbers of people getting cancers especially late-stage disease and reduce incidence across all peoples- from poorest to richest from Northern and Southern hemispheres. We focus so much on early diagnosis (ScotGov, staging, 2021) as a way of reducing cancer morbidity (and mortality) but the lens on prevention has got very cloudy in the last couple of years. Focusing on health behaviours at a time when COVID-19 related stress and anxieties have risen has not become easier. We have watched obesity figures increase and greater alcohol consumption across  the Scottish population (SHS,2021).

As COVID-19 recedes it must be time to put health, not disease centre stage. Sadly, there are few vaccinations for preventing cancers – and where these do exist (like cervical cancer) we can see major differences in incidence (NHSScotland, 2022). For the most frequently occurring cancers, lifestyle matters a lot – almost 40% of cancers can be prevented and there might be good reasons for focussing on those cancers that are rising in Scotland which include kidney, prostate and uterus – all of which are obesity related. 

There is, however, increasingly good news as more research shows that weight loss can decrease risk in key obesity cancers including breast and bowel. These findings show that the damage created by excess body fat (and the mechanisms related to cancer development) can be reduced and it’s not too late to make a difference to change health and well-being. Like smoking cessation, weight management provides an opportunity to get some control back into our lives and to plan, one step at a time, how we want to lead in times of lower COVID risk.
The USA have reignited their Cancer moonshot – an ambitious plan to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years. Scotland has been a health exemplar in many ways and now it is time to seriously plan an equally ambitious and equitable cancer reduction plan that can also contribute to diminishing inequalities in health.

Professor Annie S. Anderson & Professor Bob Steele

Dear Mum… #lookaftermum

Health has been centre stage for the past year.  I feel perhaps like many others, I have done a full 360o in terms of my mindset and mental health. When the pandemic hit and Scotland announced its first lockdown we were all a bit shook as to the speed of the sweeping deadly virus Covid-19. The uncertainty and powerlessness of the situation led my mood to spiral and I began comfort eating for the FIRST time in my life. How did I not notice? Emotional eating wasn’t a typical habit of mine. The whole world seemed to have gone to pot. Nothing was normal. I couldn’t see my family. I couldn’t see my friends. Everyone seemed to become really busy. My little boy was growing up fast and I couldn’t share this with anyone. In hindsight I guess I used food as a source of comfort in a time I felt unable to cope. Single parenting a toddler, with no respite, during a pandemic has certainly been tough.

Continue reading “Dear Mum… #lookaftermum”

FIT – a little goes a long way

Faecal immunochemical tests for haemoglobin (FIT) are now used in asymptomatic bowel screening programmes and also in assessment of patients presenting with lower bowel symptoms.  FIT specimen collection devices have a stick attached to the cap of the tube: this stick has dimples or grooves near the end to collect the correct amount of faeces. Our instructions are simple, namely, “dip the end of the stick into your poo” and “scrape the end of the stick along the sample”, and have pictures of exactly what sample is required. However, many seem surprised at how little faeces is collected, only 2 mg in the FIT used in Scotland for both clinical purposes.  Interestingly, some assume that more must be better and do try very hard to give a little (or a lot) extra in the device!  To date, very little attention has been paid to this aspect of FIT.  Recently, however, a very relevant paper has been published.1

Continue reading “FIT – a little goes a long way”

Scottish Bowel Screening programme – reflections 10 years on

The Scottish Bowel Screening programme is over ten years old. Scotland was the first country in the world to introduce systematic screening for bowel cancer and the first in the UK to offer testing to people aged 50. Lots of lessons have been learned along the way including how to improve the screening test and uptake.

Here are some reflections on current screening from Professor Bob Steele….

Continue reading “Scottish Bowel Screening programme – reflections 10 years on”

6 Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Bowel Cancer

by Sarah Toule, Head of Health Information at World Cancer Research Fund UK

Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. However, by making a few simple lifestyle changes, we have the power to significantly lower our risk of developing this common disease.

Continue reading “6 Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Bowel Cancer”

Finally, the FIT Revolution is Here

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, which again offers us the opportunity to further publicise all aspects of bowel cancer screening, diagnosis and prevention. It is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. However, if detected early, this cancer is eminently treatable and curable and almost all people diagnosed at the earliest stages will survive.

Continue reading “Finally, the FIT Revolution is Here”

Early Cancer Diagnosis? Good News!

Why should receiving a diagnosis of early cancer be good news?  Well the reason is simply that, in most instances, early cancer is completely curable.

This of course calls into question the definition of curable, but if we accept that a reasonable definition is dying of an unrelated cause, with no evidence of the “cured” disease in question, then the majority of cases of early cancer are truly curable.

Continue reading “Early Cancer Diagnosis? Good News!”

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: Working Together To Stay Well

As part of Bowel Cancer Awareness month, we’re running a series of mini-blogs from cancer experts. Here’s the final instalment from Debbie Provan.

I would like the public to know that healthy lifestyle choices are still important after a diagnosis of bowel cancer, and that whole families can work together on this. Whilst those being treated for bowel cancer may have some dietary restrictions placed upon them as a result of treatment, in general people should aim to eat a well balanced diet, keep physically active and maintain a healthy body weight Continue reading “Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: Working Together To Stay Well”

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – You Are Not Alone

As part of Bowel Cancer Awareness month, we’re running a series of mini-blogs from cancer experts. Here’s the next instalment from the Detect Cancer Early team.

I would like the public to know…they’re not alone.

The bowel screening test is completed in the comfort of your own home. It’s therefore no surprise that many people feel like they’re the only one that’s asked to do it.

Continue reading “Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – You Are Not Alone”

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