Bowel cancer can be beaten – if detected early. This was the message Scots were told today as the Scottish Government launched the second phase of its bowel cancer awareness campaign.

In a bid to encourage more Scots aged 50-74 to take part in the life-saving national bowel screening programme, the new campaign carries the powerful message that early stage bowel cancer can often be cured.

The campaign shows the real value of completing the home screening kit, which is the best way to find bowel cancer early.

Picking up where the first campaign left off, the next phase wants to increase the 57 per cent of bowel cancers detected at the earliest stages, by asking more people to return their completed kits.

Last year’s public awareness campaign resulted in a large increase in calls to the national bowel screening centre and the latest statistics shows that uptake of the programme has gone up from 54 to 56 percent in two years.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “We know that nine out of 10 people will survive bowel cancer if it is detected early. Completing and returning the home test is the simplest way to get checked – giving yourself the best possible chance of survival.

“However, only just over half of those eligible have taken the opportunity to get tested. Bowel cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, especially when it’s caught early, and taking the test helps us to do exactly that.

“We want to encourage even more people to take up the services on offer and help further increase the rate of bowel cancers detected at the earliest stage, when people are least likely to need invasive treatment and most likely to survive.

“An important part of this is ensuring everyone who is eligible takes the time to complete their home test kit. Having done the test myself I know how simple it is to do and the results could make a difference to your life. My message is clear, bowel cancer can be beaten if its caught early. Don’t get scared, take the test.”

The campaign, which goes live today, is supported by 70-year-old Sheena Edgar who is one of Scotland’s growing number of cancer survivors thanks to screening.

Sheena, from Lanarkshire, was diagnosed with bowel cancer after completing a routine bowel screening test three years ago.

Highlighting the importance of the returning the screening kit Sheena said: “I had no symptoms at all but I sent away my test anyway. Just a few days later I had a letter asking me to get in touch with the hospital to arrange a colonoscopy. They told me they found three polyps which were then sent away for testing.

These tests, which would not have been done if Sheena hadn’t returned her kit, showed that she did indeed need treatment.

Sheena explained: “I then had an operation, but was home three days later and felt like I was back to normal. It was all really quick. The staff that helped look after me were absolutely brilliant. It was over before I realised that anything had even happened.

Sheena is sharing her story as part of the new campaign because she recognises how it saved her life – a message she wants others to know.

She said: “I’m very grateful for the screening service. Don’t be put off doing the test – it’s so simple and could save your life. You might not like the thought of it, but it’s easy and you can do it in private, in your own home.

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“It doesn’t bear thinking about how long I might have had to wait before finding out I had bowel cancer, without the screening programme. It could have been much further down the line, when it was more advanced – I could have been facing a very different outcome all together.

“I was so lucky it was caught early, thank goodness for the screening service.”

Applauding the new campaign Emma Anderson, Scottish Operations Manager, Bowel Cancer UK said:

“Bowel Cancer UK welcomes the next phase of the Detect Cancer Early bowel cancer campaign.

“We have seen the uptake rate of the bowel screening test increase since the campaign began but there are still too many people not completing and returning their kit. Everyone who is eligible should do the test – it could save their life.”

Terence O’Kelly, the Scottish Government’s Senior Medical Officer and Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary said:

“If a tumour is present, just in the bowel wall, it can be cured.

“I know of many patients who have completed the home screening test, had a positive result, and have gone on to have polyps removed before they develop any further. These individuals have then enjoyed completely normal lives.

“Clearly not everyone has the same journey or outcome. However, what is clear, is that if detected early, bowel cancer is a form of disease that can be cured.”

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

The programme was extended in April 2013, so that those over the age of 74 can self-refer every two years by requesting a screening kit through the Scottish Bowel Screening Helpline.

For information on the screening programme, contact the Scottish Bowel Screening Helpline on 0800 0121 833 or visit www.bowelscreeningtest.org.