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Your spotlight on local services

Understanding and Exploring Barriers to Bowel Cancer Screening


Understanding Bowel Cancer

Someone dies of bowel cancer every 30 minutes in the UK. It’s the second biggest cancer killer, but it shouldn’t be, because it’s treatable and curable, particularly through screening. Screening is identifying seemingly healthy people who may be at increased risk of a disease or condition.
Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stages will survive the disease. It is the 3rd most common cancer in both men and women (2016-2018) [1].

In Barking and Dagenham, our annual director of Public Health report showed that bowel cancer screening coverage is one of the lowest-performing outcomes in the country and it is reflected in the mortality rates of bowel cancer [2] [3].

NHS bowel screening checks are free and currently available to everyone aged 52 to 74 years. The programme is expanding - this month the minimum age lowered from 55 to 52 and it is in place to lower it to 50 later. If you're 75 or over, you can ask for a kit every 2 years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.

You need to be registered with a GP to receive the kit (anyone can register with a GP for free). You should also check that your GP has the most up-to-date home address for you, as this is where your kit will be sent.

Understanding the Project

This month, Healthwatch Barking and Dagenham is launching a project to understand what factors are contributing to the low uptake of bowel cancer screening in the borough despite the screening programme in place. The lowest performance indicates serious attention and there is a role to play in preventing cancer from developing and killing. With the unique demographic make up of Barking and Dagenham, the project will also pay attention to tackling health inequalities through ethnicity, age, qualification level and more.

Objectives of the Project

The project aims to:

  • Assess the awareness of bowel cancer and its screening programme in the community across various demographics
  • Amplify the voices and experiences of the community, regarding the test kit, ensuring their concerns are heard by decision-makers.
  • Understand the cultural and social mechanisms around bowel cancer in communities with a consideration to tackling health inequalities
  • Subsequently provide recommendations that better serve the needs of residents of Barking and Dagenham.

Your Voice Matters:

As part of this initiative, we invite all residents to share their thoughts and experiences through a comprehensive survey. This survey covers awareness about bowel cancer, thoughts about the kit and using it, and accessing the health system.

Furthermore, focus groups will be held within communities to delve into the thoughts and feelings on bowel cancer and the screening programme to understand the cultural and social mechanisms behind it truly.


By targeting the community's awareness, access and feelings, we can get a scope of the interactions residents of Barking and Dagenham may have with the bowel cancer programme. By amplifying your voices, we can advocate for change that best supports you, in preventing this disease and creating a healthier community.

Your participation in this survey is invaluable in raising awareness and strengthening the prevention of bowel cancer, reducing deaths. Together, we can continue to beat cancer. Alternatively, you can call us on 0800 298 5331 or email at info@healthwatchbarkinganddagenham.co.uk to share your experiences.

[1] https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/bowel-cancer

[2] https://www.lbbd.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2024-02/LBBD ADPHR 2023.pdf

[3] OHID Fingertips Profiles Public health outcomes framework


Healthwatch Barking and Dagenham
Lifeline House
25 Neville Road
Dagenham, Essex RM8 3QS