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Thousands at risk of bowel cancer after one million screening tests missed in coronavirus lockdown

THOUSANDS of Brits face a higher risk of bowel cancer after one million screening invites were delayed by lockdown, a leading charity has warned.

Around 675,000 people should have received an invite to do a home test since March – two per cent of whom would have had a positive screening result.

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Depending on where the cancer starts it can also be referred to as colon cancer [/caption]

The shocking figures from Bowel Cancer UK found that the lack of testing equates to 1,350 undiagnosed bowel cancer cases in England alone.

It comes after cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust revealed that over 600,000 people have missed checks during the pandemic.

Bowel cancer screening has been paused throughout the UK and the data from the charity also suggests that more than 4,000 people could have undetected polyps.

If these precancerous lumps are not removed there’s a high risk they could develop into bowel cancer.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is where the disease starts in the large intestines

It’s also referred to as colon or colorectal cancer, because it can also affect the colon and rectum.

Most bowel cancers develop from pre-cancerous growths, called polyps.

Not all will turn cancerous, but if your doctor finds any, they will tend to remove them to prevent cancer.

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common form of the disease in the UK, with 42,000 people diagnosed every year, according to Bowel Cancer UK.

More than 94 per cent of new cases are in people over the age of 50, while nearly 59 per cent are in the over 70s.

But bowel cancer can affect anyone, of any age with more than 2,500 cases diagnosed in people under the age of 50 each year.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer in the UK and causes over 16,000 deaths a year. But, catch it early and it can be cured.

If diagnosed at stage 1, a patient has a 97 per cent chance of living for five years or more. But catch the disease at stage 4 – and that chance plummets to just seven per cent.

This is why The Sun previously launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign to urge people to talk about their number twos, to raise awareness and urge everyone to learn the warning signs.

The campaign also called for the screening age to be lowered from 60 to 50 -a move which could save thousands of lives every year. Just months after launching No Time 2 Lose, the Government vowed to lower the screening age, marking a victory for The Sun, Bowel Cancer UK and campaginers.

Around 8,500 people who had already received pre-lockdown positive screening results in England are still waiting for follow up appointments.

These have been postponed so that resources could be redeployed to help fight Covid-19.

Many people will lose their lives to bowel cancer because of the coronavirus pandemic


Genevieve EdwardsBowel Cancer UK

This along with the over one million invites for screening that have not been sent out could mean that more people lose their lives to bowel cancer.

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We’re in the eye of a perfect storm where, tragically, many people will lose their lives to bowel cancer because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“A million bowel cancer screening invitations have been delayed in England alone, and there’s a backlog of thousands waiting for further investigations after receiving a positive screening result, and we know what a worrying time this is for them.

“In addition, the numbers of people ignoring symptoms to avoid burdening the NHS, or because of fears of coronavirus in health service settings, gives us great cause for concern.”

Bowel cancer symptoms and signs

What are the five red flags when it comes to bowel cancer and what do you need to look out for?

Bleeding from your back passage:

Bleeding from your bottom may not always be a cause for concern and most of the time you may need to just be a little more gentle when cleaning yourself.

There are many reasons why you might be bleeding or be experiencing blood in your poo.

Bright red blood may come from piles or haemorrhoids, conditions you can get over the counter medication for.

Weight loss: Unexplained weight loss, losing weight when you have not actively been on a diet may mean you have bowel cancer.

However this can also be caused by other illnesses such as depression or an over active thyroid gland.

If you have bowel cancer it’s likely that you won’t feel hungry and often feel sick.

Extreme fatigue: We can feel extreme tiredness due to a range of things and this can sometimes mean you have a lack of iron in your body.

Bowel cancer can lead to a lack of iron in the system which may cause anemia which is a lack of red blood cells.

You may feel tired and also looker paler than usual.

Lumps and bumps: If you have developed a lump in your stomach or back passage then this may be a sign of bowel cancer.

You should see your GP if your symptoms get worse.

A change in toilet habits: If you’re going the loo more often for a number two then it might be cause for concern.

As well as this if your stools are looser than usual you may need to see your GP.

Stools can vary depending on what we eat and drink and if you have recently changed your diet you may find that your toilet habits also change too

She added that as services begin to build back up again capacity will be a “fraction of what is needed”.

“Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, but it’s treatable and curable, especially if it’s diagnosed early.

“We understand the unprecedented pressures that coronavirus has placed on the NHS, which will need adequate resourcing and robust plans to deal with this backlog, or lives will be lost unnecessarily.” 

People who need further screening would be given a colonoscopy.

This is a procedure that checks the inside of the bowels to confirm whether or not someone has bowel cancer.


They are an aerosol-generating procedure and this means they will be greatly reduced in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Endoscopy suites usually carry out eight to 10 tests a day and at present they are only seeing two to three patients.

Bowel Cancer UK said more investment is needed into the space so on the spot Covid tests can be carried out in order to make sure tests continue to happen.

England does not yet have any plans to resume screening bit the Welsh Government this week said it would start this again in the summer.

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