Sajid Javid has urged men over 60 to take the free bowel cancer screening test available on the NHS. 

The Health Secretary, who lost his father to the disease, urged the demographic to use a home testing kit. 

Almost 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year, with 16,500 dying annually from the condition.

It is understood to be one of the most common cancers in England and it mostly affects those aged 60 and over.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bowel cancer graphic. Credit: PABowel cancer graphic. Credit: PA

One in 20 people say that they would go to the doctor if they had symptoms, according to the NHS. 

The statistic varies with men less likely to go to a screening than women - 47%, compared to 56% of women, despite the NHS saying that regular screening can reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by at least 25%.

Mr Javid said: “I know all too well how devastating this disease is having lost my dad to bowel cancer 10 years ago. If he had been diagnosed earlier, he may still be with us today.”

The public call comes amid news that Government will set out its 10-Year Cancer Plan this summer.

Mr Javid added: “As well as launching a 10-year Cancer Plan to deliver world-leading cancer care, I want to see more eligible people coming forward for bowel cancer screening, which saves at least 2,500 lives every year.”

The plan is expected to focus on increasing early diagnosis as well as increasing the cancer workforce, and tackling disparities and inequalities in healthcare.

How to get a free bowel cancer testing kit

To get your free home bowel cancer testing kit or Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), you need to be:

  • aged between 60 and 74 or 56 years old
  • registered with a GP, at the correct address

It is quick and simple to use, taken every two years, and means that you do not need to go to a hospital for screening.

If your test spots anything unusual, you may be asked to take further tests to confirm to rule out cancer.

If you're 75 and over, you can ask for a kit every 2 years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline - 0800 707 60 60.

Those who are worried about a family history of bowel cancer or have any of the below symptoms, should speak to a GP for advice.

Bowel cancer symptoms to watch out for according to the NHS

The NHS has rounded up some common symptoms that could indicate bowel cancer but it is important to know that they can be subtle and might not make you feel unwell:

  • a persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain
  • blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids) – this makes it unlikely the cause is haemorrhoids
  • abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss

Constipation is also regarded as an indicator of bowel cancer but most people with these symptoms do not have cancer.

For information, support and how to use the bowel cancer screening FIT kit, visit the NHS website.