George Alagiah joins NHS campaign to get South Asian communities around the country talking about bowel cancer screening

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Desk Report: The BBC broadcaster, George Alagiah is supporting the first national NHS bowel screening campaign that asks anyone who receives a free test kit: “put it by the loo, don’t put it off” as recent data showed that almost one third (30%) of people do not return the potentially lifesaving tests.

New survey results also showed that nearly nine in 10 (89%) of eligible 56-74 year old South Asians would be likely to take a test if it could help find signs of cancer at an earlier stage, but one in five say they wouldn’t complete a bowel screening test because they would be too embarrassed to look at their stool.

Dr Ajay Verma, a leading consultant gastroenterologist at Woodland Hospital of Kettering explains: “The test is really effective and you can do it in the privacy of your own home. I realise that my patients may feel embarrassed about doing the test, but there’s no need. It’s hygienic and if you complete it when you receive it, it could help save your life.”

George Alagiah, said: “As a bowel cancer survivor, I urge everyone who has received their kit not to ignore it. You don’t need to visit a doctor, you can do it at home, it could save your life.”

The NHS bowel cancer screening programme involves using a test kit, which is delivered to your door through the post. The test detects small amounts of blood in stool, which would be too tiny to be visible to people and could appear before someone may notice anything is wrong.

A tiny sample of stool is collected using the plastic stick provided and is placed in a sample bottle before being sent back to the NHS, free of charge, for laboratory analysis.

More than half a million bowel screening test kits are posted out each month to eligible people, who are automatically sent a kit every two years if they are registered with a GP practice and live in England.

Dr Ajay says “If you’re aged 60 to 74, live in England and are registered with a GP practice, you’ll be sent a kit in the post automatically. As part of plans to lower the age of people that receive the test to age 50 by 2025, 56-year-olds are also now sent the test kit and it is currently being rolled out to 58-year-olds.

“Whether you have symptoms or not. If you are sent a kit, please do use it. Most people who return the kit do not require any further investigations. If cancer is found, it is always best to catch it early when it’s far easier to treat.”

Rifat Mahmood, 62, “My family never had any major health issues, I felt well so I didn’t feel I needed to do the test and I ignored it. But when I started losing weight unexpectedly and rapidly, my wife grew concerned and encouraged me to go to the GP and I was referred for further tests.”

“I was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had urgent surgery. I’m so grateful to the quick action of the NHS staff to remove the growth before it spread.”

“Complete the test as soon as you receive it for your’s and your family’s sake .”

People concerned that they may have missed their invitation or have lost or thrown away their kit can call the free bowel cancer screening helpline for advice on 0800 707 60 60. Information on bowel cancer and the screening programme can be found at:


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