A call has been made for the extension of bowel cancer screening amid concern about the high incidence of the disease in Carrick.
East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs made the appeal during a Stormont debate after discovering the borough has the worst statistics for bowel (colectoral) cancer for men in Northern Ireland.
Mr Beggs said: “For the 2006-2010 period the standardised mortality rates for colectoral cancer – which is also known as colon, rectal or bowel cancer – is alarmingly high in the borough of Carrickfergus. At 152.9 the male mortality rate for Carrickfergus is the worst in Northern Ireland. At 121.4 overall it is second only to Moyle district. This makes the need to raise awareness of the screening programme, to increase recognition of the symptoms and to improve early diagnosis urgent.”
Speaking in the Assembly debate, the UUP representative added: “One of the aspects of the disease that makes it particularly difficult to treat and diagnose early is that the symptoms develop late. When those late symptoms develop, it limits the treatment that may yet be possible. That is why screening is so important, so that earlier diagnosis can be possible in more cases. “
He added that in 2010, the bowel cancer screening programme began for people aged 60 to 69, and that has now been extended.
“In June 2009, the acting Chief Medical Officer said that, from January 2014, the programme would be further extended to include all eligible men and women aged 50 to 74. I hope that that will be the case shortly and that we will be able to widen out that age bracket.”
Mr Beggs highlighted the need to recognise the symptoms of bowel cancer: bleeding from the rectum; a change in bowel habits lasting three weeks or more; unexplained weight loss; extreme tiredness; and perhaps a lump or pain in the tummy.
“If you are concerned about any of those symptoms, go and see your GP and be tested. The earlier you go, the better the outcomes …diet can be a problem. That is under our control, and we can lessen the likelihood of difficulties.”
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