MORE than a third of people eligible for bowel cancer screening are not taking part in the free tests.
April marks Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and figures from Public Health England reveal only 57 per cent of people in the south east are completing the screening test sent to them.
Calls are now being made for people aged 60 to 74 to complete the test which can detect early signs of bowel cancer.
It is the second-biggest cancer killer but, if caught early, can be treated successfully in 95 per cent of cases.
Consultant colorectal surgeon Mr Jim Khan, who works at Spire Portsmouth Hospital in Havant and Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, said: ‘A vast majority of people are just not being tested.
‘Screening can detect bowel cancer before any symptoms appear which means it is much easier to treat and success rates are very high.
‘The incidence of bowel cancer in young people is rising; worryingly they don’t have symptoms and hence the need for early screening.
‘Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to let people know they can actually do positive things to improve their health and increase their chances of successful treatment.’
The areas covered by Fareham and Gosport and south east Hampshire clinical commissioning groups are among the top five areas for uptake in the south east.
In Fareham and Gosport, 63 per cent of people complete the test while 61 per cent of people in south east Hampshire do.
The free tests are sent out every two years to everyone aged between 60 and 74 who is registered with a GP.
It can be carried out at home and it looks for hidden blood in faeces, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer.
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage is supporting the awareness campaign.
She said: ‘I would urge my constituents who are sent a bowel screening test to use it.
‘Taking part in bowel cancer screening is the best way to get diagnosed early.’
Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: ‘It’s quite simple, bowel cancer screening saves lives.’