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Bowel cancer campaign is crap idea (and we mean that as a compliment)

You've probably seen the TV ads for the government’s first ever national cancer campaign to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.

MHF bowel cancer reportThe word 'poo' has been chosen as a way of encouraging us to talk about this embarrassing business. Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: 'No one likes talking about their poo – it’s embarrassing. But bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer so we need to get over the embarrassment and talk to someone about it. No matter how embarrassing it is, talking to your GP can help save your life.'

The campaign, which will run till the end of March on TV, radio, online and in newspapers, was piloted in the South West and East of England in January 2011. In those areas, GPs saw the number of people over the age of 50 presenting with the relevant symptoms increase by 48% – about one extra patient per practice per week.

What do you think?

Public awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer is low. But spotting the signs early and getting medical advice could save your life. So the government should be congratulated for raising a subject none of us like talking about.

And on the face of it a 48% increase sounds excellent - imagine that across the country - but is 'poo' the right word? (Is it even the right spelling?) Does it get the right balance between medical and slang terms or would a campaign that uses a word that adults actually use be more effective?

Let us know what you think.

Key facts about bowel cancer

  • Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer.
  • It affects 33,000 people every year in England with the majority of cases occurring in people over the age of 55.
  • There are 13,000 deaths a year but it can be less deadly if spotted and diagnosed early.
  • More than 90% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage survive for at least 5 years compared with only 6% of those diagnosed at a late stage.
  • If England’s bowel cancer survival rates matched the best in Europe an additional 1,700 lives would be saved every year.
  • Around 14,600 cases were diagnosed in women and 18,000 in men in England in 2008.
  • Two thirds of bowel cancer develop in the colon, while the remaining third developing in the rectum
  • Bowel cancer is also referred to as colorectal cancer. It includes both cancer of the colon and cancer of the rectum.

The symptoms of bowel cancer

The main symptoms are blood in poo for 3 weeks or looser poo for 3 weeks or more. Other symptoms include: a pain or lump in your tummy, feeling more tired than usual for some time and unexplained weight loss.


Page created on February 10th, 2012

Page updated on February 10th, 2012