Ipswich bowel cancer survivor backs symptom awareness campaign

Gareth Grayston was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2009. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Gareth Grayston was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2009. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

One in three people in the East of England are not able to name a single symptom of bowel cancer, new figures reveal.

A survivor from Ipswich who was diagnosed with the illness at just 27 has said more needs to be done to raise awareness of what to look out for.

The study commissioned by Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer shows 58% of people in the region recognise blood in the stool or bleeding from the bottom as a symptom.

The charity says knowledge of the other four signs is “alarmingly low” in the East of England, with 15% naming change of bowel habit, and 8% able to identify pain or a lump in the stomach.

Just 7% know extreme weight loss could be a symptom of bowel cancer, and only 2% recognise unexplained tiredness as a sign.

The results have been released in Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

Ipswich musician Gareth Grayston, 35, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2009 and is now in remission following treatment.

Reacting to the figures, Mr Grayston said: “The lack of awareness actually doesn’t surprise me as I wasn’t aware at all for any of the symptoms. I definitely feel more needs to be done 100% to promote awareness as if caught early it is very likely to be curable.

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“My local GP actually wasn’t very good with my symptoms either. It wasn’t until I went to A&E up the hospital that they took blood tests and realised something was wrong and further tested me.”

Bowel cancer is the UK’s fourth most common cancer.

The condition is treatable if found fast, but only around 15% of people are diagnosed at the earliest stage, according to Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer.

The charity’s chief executive, Deborah Alsina MBE, said: “If you experience any of the symptoms of bowel cancer or just don’t feel quite right, no matter your age, please visit your GP. Don’t worry about wasting their time. If you are worried that something is wrong, they will want to see you.

“Your GP may be able to put your mind at rest. If it is something serious, the earlier you get a diagnosis, the better the chance of successful treatment and cure.”

The charity has created a symptom guide and people can request a free copy.