THE BLOG

It's Time to Take a Huge Step Forward in Beating Bowel Cancer

21/04/2015 15:50 BST | Updated 17/06/2015 10:59 BST

It's less than three weeks to go until the General Election. Whatever your political views I think we all agree that these are interesting times as we use our vote to influence what happens over the next five years. For bowel cancer, we see the new Parliament as an opportunity to say loud and clear that we must save and improve lives by setting out within that time frame the significant steps we need to take to beat bowel cancer.

That's not to say we haven't made a lot of progress in recent years. There are more people with bowel cancer surviving longer, thanks to a new screening programme, better public awareness and the availability of better treatments. My personal highlight of recent years was the government awareness campaign that used the word poo in its headline!

We at Beating Bowel Cancer have played our part. We have developed the UK's only nurse-led specialist helpline for bowel cancer and grown a community of people who want to share their experience of bowel cancer and support each other. We have passionately campaigned to raise awareness of bowel cancer and to improve the treatments and care for bowel cancer patients.

But, collectively, we haven't achieved enough.

For me this is personal. I have seen too many patients fail to receive the best treatment that could be available. I have lost too many friends to bowel cancer. We need to do more. We need to be more ambitious. We need to knock bowel cancer off its spot as the UK's second biggest cancer killer.

So we are setting out where we need to be in five years' time if we are to be well on the way to beating bowel cancer. Our ambition is no less than making sure that by 2020 we save at least 9,000 more lives, and we radically improve the experience of every bowel cancer patient.

If we do the right things, working in partnership with the NHS, the four governments of the United Kingdom, doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals, patients and families, and many more we can, by 2020, deliver:

• A million more people screened for bowel cancer. That means a million more opportunities to spot bowel cancer early and early diagnosis saves lives. That means we need to be have better take up of screening than there is now for breast and cervical cancer. And, let's be clear, screening needs to start for everyone at age 50.

• Making sure that no-one with the symptoms of bowel cancer will be turned away. We want to see everyone with clear symptoms automatically referred for a diagnostic test within six weeks. And we want to see a new approach that if you have the red flag symptoms you should be able to refer yourself for further investigation.

• Delivering to every bowel cancer patient the best possible, gold-standard treatment, wherever they live whatever their age. No excuses.

• Ensuring there are more bowel cancer nurses in the NHS; because every bowel cancer patient must get the time they need with their specialist nurse - one of the key indicators of high quality care and the best possible outcomes.

• Making sure that everyone who has gone through treatment gets the support they need after discharge - because we know the effects of bowel cancer don't stop when the hospital says you are done.

To achieve these goals we at Beating Bowel Cancer are going to work with the NHS at the highest level. We are going to engage fully with the newly elected Members of Parliament. And, yes, ask whoever the Prime Minister is after 7 May to back our ambitions and work with us to deliver them.

Because if we do this we will shift bowel cancer from its position as a common cancer killer. We will make bowel cancer a rare cancer killer.

We are determined to take this chance to move us significantly forward within five years to a world where bowel cancer is beaten.

You can sign up to Beating Bowel Cancer's pledge here.