IT’S Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and the Dorset Echo is taking a closer look at what has become known as ‘one of the last cancer taboos’. Around 400 Dorset residents were diagnosed with bowel cancer each year between 2008 and 2010 and one in four people are touched by the disease, either directly or through a family member or friend. Local support groups and health chiefs are determined to raise awareness

A WEYMOUTH woman who was diagnosed with bowel cancer is urging people to check for the signs.

With 43 people dying each day from bowel cancer, health experts and sufferers want to get people talking about the issue without feeling embarrassed.

Weymouth resident Elaine Gardner was diagnosed in 2009 and she says the sooner a patient is diagnosed, the better their chances of successful treatment.

Over 90 per cent of those diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer are successfully treated.

Common symptoms include a pain or lump in your tummy, feeling more tired than usual for some time and losing weight for no obvious reason.

Having the symptoms doesn’t always mean its bowel cancer.

They can often be down to other conditions, such as haemorrhoids, otherwise known as piles, which may still need treatment.

If you know anyone with any of these symptoms, advise them to see their doctor.

Macmillan GP Dr Paul Barker said: “If you have had blood in your poo or looser poo for three weeks go and see your GP.

“Chances are it is nothing, but it could be a sign of bowel cancer.”

Ms Gardner told the Echo: “From an early age we are brought up not to talk about bowel habits, and are embarrassed about the subject. But just think for a moment, what are those few minutes of embarrassment compared to saving your life?

“Bowel cancer is life-changing and not just for the patients, but for family and friends.”

Ms Gardner is the chairman of local support group The West Dorset Semi Colons who are determined to get more people talking about bowel cancer.

She, along with the rest of the support group, is hoping to unite all those affected by the disease and talk openly about bowel cancer in what she says is ‘one of the last cancer taboos’.

The group’s aims are to support patients diagnosed with this disease right from day one.

Ms Gardner added: “There is nothing you can tell us that they haven’t experienced ourselves.

“The staff at Dorset County Hospital saved my life and if we can help others going though this life-changing experience then that is a positive thing.”

Dr Barker added: “Spotting the possible signs of cancer is very important, as the earlier you are diagnosed the more likely it is you can be successfully treated.

“If you are concerned, go and see your local GP – if it turns out to be nothing serious you aren’t wasting your time.

“But if it is cancer we can get you on the road to treatment. A trip to your doctor’s surgery could save your life.”

  • THE West Dorset Semi-Colons are raising funds this year for the new endoscopy unit at Dorset County Hospital, which opened three weeks ago.

They meet quarterly in Dorchester. For more information contact Elaine on 01305 816031.

Further information is available by visiting the NHS Dorset CCG website