The Health Secretary said that men, in particular, need to get a free test for the UK’s second biggest cancer killer – with 16,500 deaths a year. His father, Abdul Ghani-Javid, a bus driver, died from bowel cancer in March 2012.
As part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, Mr Javid told the Sunday Express: “This month holds a lot of significance for me – not only because we tragically lose too many people to this disease before their time, but because one of those people was my dad.
“By the time he was diagnosed aged 71, it was too late.
“This vicious disease had already spread to his lungs and liver.”
He added: “My dad told me he wished he had taken the early signs much more seriously but unfortunately for him, he left it too late. If he’d been diagnosed earlier, he may still be with us today.
“But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Since June 2019, we’ve been able to do tests for bowel cancer from home – you don’t even need to go to hospital to get screened. Everyone in England aged 60-74 receives a bowel test in the post every two years.
“As I learnt with my dad, every moment counts. So, I encourage anyone with potential symptoms to visit their GP straight away, and when that home testing kit lands on your doormat, don’t throw it away.
“I urge you to take it – it’s simple to do and it could save your life.”
NHS figures show only one in 20 people go to the doctor if they have bowel cancer symptoms – which include bleeding, stomach pain, weight loss and a change of bowel habits. And men are less likely to take up screening – 47 percent, compared to 56 percent of women.
This summer the Government is expected to set out its 10-Year Cancer Plan, which will focus on increasing the number of people diagnosed early, increasing the cancer workforce, and tackling disparities and inequalities in healthcare.
Mr Javid said: “Despite having a save life’ convenient test to do at home, not enough people are getting screened – especially men.
This must change. We know screening reduces your risk of dying from bowel cancer by at least a quarter. I want to see more eligible people coming forward for bowel cancer screening, which saves at least 2,500 lives every year.”
A home testing kit, the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), is sent to people aged 60-74 every two years. If it finds anything unusual, people may be asked to have further tests to confirm or rule out cancer.
The Government said it is also investing £2.3 billion to roll out 160 Community Diagnostic Centres, which offer patients rapid access to clinical tests and checks, 81 of which have already opened.
By 2025, it aims to carry out nine million tests, helping to reduce waiting times so 95 per cent of patients will receive tests within six weeks.