Covid and bowel cancer screening

Tens of thousands of patients are waiting longer than six weeks for bowel cancer screening tests as a result of the COVID pandemic, according to the latest figures published by NHS England.

Screening programmes for bowel, breast and cervical cancer were all badly affected at the start of the pandemic as the figures reveal.

Of the more than 91,600 people on the waiting list for investigations in February 2021, nearly half (49% or 45,173 people) were waiting more than six weeks for an endoscopy test (colonoscopy or flexi-sigmoidoscopy), with almost a third of the total (31% or 28,856 people) waiting more than 13 weeks.

These tests are important diagnostic tools in identifying bowel cancer, the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. Although many of these patients that have been referred for an endoscopy won’t be diagnosed with bowel cancer, it’s estimated that a quarter of bowel cancer patients every year are diagnosed this way.

Bowel cancer is highly treatable and curable if it is diagnosed early, so it’s essential that you seek medical advice as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

The early signs of bowel cancer are often the same as other common, non-serious conditions. Symptoms can include:

  • Persistent change in bowel habits, often with looser, runnier stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lump in the abdomen
  • Discomfort or bloating brought on by eating
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blood in your stools

If you’re concerned about any symptoms affecting the bowel, get in touch to arrange a consultation with Mr Michael Stellakis