Bowel Cancer UK’s work in Scotland

Bowel Cancer UK

Monday, January 16, 2017

In Scotland bowel cancer is the third most common cancer. Every year around 4,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer and around 1,600 people die from the disease. Bowel cancer is the second biggest killer in the country, however it shouldn’t be, it’s treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early.

Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer. However this drops significantly as the disease develops. This is why early diagnosis is so vital.

Bowel Cancer UK, the UK’s leading bowel cancer research charity, was proud to open a Scotland office in 2005. Our campaigning and policy work covers issues affecting people right across the UK. The charity works closely with the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland and other decision makers in the country and we are members of the Scottish Cancer Coalition, the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network and the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Cancer. The charity fully supports the Scottish Government’s ‘Detect Cancer Early’ campaign aimed at increasing early diagnosis of cancer.

After many years of campaigning for a more effective bowel cancer screening test, Bowel Cancer UK were thrilled that Scotland led the way to introduce the new Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) with England and Wales following suit. The new test has shown to increase screening uptake by around 10% and most importantly, has the potential to diagnose more people early. FIT, which launches in Scotland in 2017, comes as a welcome as uptake rates for bowel cancer screening for the country currently sit at 58%, even though 92% of people in Scotland have heard of the screening programme.

In 2016, Bowel Cancer UK’s award winning volunteers have delivered 60 talks in Scotland, reaching over 2,000 people. Our volunteers have been affected by bowel cancer in some way and use their experience to deliver talks to groups in local communities and workplaces, as well as to health and social care professions. This helps people to understand the signs and symptoms and risk factors. The charity regularly hears how these face to face talks mean people take part in bowel cancer screening or go to their GP with worrying symptoms.

One participant said: "After this talk I will definitely do my latest screening sample which I have ignored for a few months”.

Bowel Cancer UK’s flagship campaign Never Too Young is leading change for younger bowel cancer patients. The campaign is giving younger patients a voice and changing clinical practice and policy to stop bowel cancer in people under 50. Every year 2,400 younger people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK. While this is only five per cent of those diagnosed, this number is slowly increasing. As a result of this campaign the referral guidelines for GPs in Scotland changed to acknowledge bowel cancer in people under the age of 40 and to drop the ‘watch and wait’ method commonly used for this age group showing symptoms.

Clare was 36 when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer – 14 years before being eligible for the screening programme. “I went backwards and forwards to the GP, having been told it was a variety of conditions, including IBS and piles, even heartburn, and was sent home with creams and pessaries.  It was only when a different doctor examined me that he referred me to Dumfries & Galloway Infirmary where I had a colonoscopy, which revealed a cancerous tumour. I had surgery, followed by chemotherapy. Once I was diagnosed the process was very quick and quite robotic. I feel a lot of information about bowel cancer is aimed at older people and I was overlooked because of my age.”

Get involved:

  • Use our resources, there are a host of free resources you can order from our website to raise awareness of the disease and it’s symptoms.
  • Organise a talk, one of our volunteers can provide this free talk to community groups, workplaces and the resources are free too!
  • Join our award winning volunteer programme and give a 30-40 minute talk in your local area about bowel cancer. Full training is given and support materials provided, Bowel Cancer UK’s health promotion programme was recognised in 2015 by the Royal Society of Public Health receiving a coveted Award.
  • Tell us your stories, if you have been involved in bowel screening, have a family members with bowel cancer, have had bowel cancer yourself then sharing your experience could save someone’s life.
  • Raise vital funds to support Bowel Cancer UK, sign up for one of our fitness challenges, organise a Be a Star, Bake a Cake competition at work or at home, or create your own event with the help of our fundraising team.
  • Become a campaigner, join our policy work and make a real difference to people affected by bowel cancer.

Visit our website for more information on or contact the Scotland office directly on