BBC News

Lives 'saved' in Scotland through bowel cancer screening

image captionThe Poo Song aims to encourage younger people to "nudge" older people into taking the screening test

About 750 lives in Scotland have been saved since the introduction of the national bowel screening programme in 2007, new figures have suggested.

It has emerged that just over half of those eligible for the programme actually do the test (54.5%).

Nudge Day, a national day of action, is being held to encourage Scots to persuade older family members (aged 50-74) to get tested for bowel cancer.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said more lives could be saved through screening.

"Bowel cancer can have a devastating effect on families across Scotland and the number of lives saved could be far higher if more people took the screening test," he said.

"Everyone has a part to play in encouraging parents and older family members to take the test, as it is the best way to detect the hidden signs of bowel cancer."

Serious message

The day follows the release of "The Poo Song", which is part of the Scottish government's Detect Cancer Early programme. It had more than 30,000 hits on YouTube in a week.

It was created to increase awareness of bowel cancer and aimed at younger people to encourage them to urge their parents and older members of their family to take the test.

Mr Neil added: "We think this catchy tune will put bowel cancer at the front of people's minds. Although light-hearted, the message is serious; nine out of 10 people survive bowel cancer if it's detected early and screening could save your life."

Emma Anderson, from Bowel Cancer UK, said: "We encourage everyone across Scotland to get behind Nudge Day.

"Bowel cancer is very treatable, especially if diagnosed at an early stage, so it is important to use and return a screening kit if you receive it.

"Some people are uncomfortable about doing it or talking about the subject but family and friends should do everything they can to encourage those eligible to do the test."

The Scottish Bowel Screening Programme invites all men and women in Scotland aged 50 - 74 to participate in screening every two years.

Those over the age of 74 can self-refer every two years by requesting a screening kit through the Scottish Bowel Screening helpline.

Meanwhile, a study carried out on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support, suggested that four out of five cancer patients faced an average cost of £420 a month because of their illness.

Bristol University research indicated that people's finances were being hit by loss of income and higher heating bills, among other factors.

The study surveyed 196 people in Scotland who have a cancer diagnosis.

'Cancer poverty'

Kate Coulter, 52, had to give up work in a nursing home after being diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2010.

The Ardrossan grandmother went from an income of about £800 a month to £320 a month in statutory sick pay, before going onto benefits.

"I don't think people understand the impact of cancer on your finances," she said. "If you've been working you take a big cut in income and that is very hard.

"I had to have the heating on all the time because I was constantly frozen because of the chemotherapy, so my bills went up."

Elspeth Atkinson, director of Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland, said: "This new research shows that cancer comes with real costs, almost as much as a second mortgage for many cancer patients.

"Combined with the current recession and with welfare cuts, the cost of the disease is hitting the most vulnerable hardest.

"With the number of people living with cancer in Scotland expected to double to almost 400,000 by 2030, this growing problem of cancer poverty cannot be ignored."

More on this story

  • Bowel cancer survival 'more likely'