Sunday, 3 March 2024
Sunday, 3 March 2024

Embarrassment causes a third of bowel disease patients to suffer in silence

JUST under a third of people (32%) who are living with a chronic bowel-related condition admit to ‘suffering silently’ by not revealing their bowel health issues to family, friends or colleagues, finds a  new survey by national medical research charity Bowel Research UK.  

Social stigma is one of the main reasons why many people don’t talk openly about the realities of life after bowel surgery or having an inflammatory bowel disease and both these conditions increase the risk of faecal incontinence.  

According to Bowel Research UK (BRUK), up to eight in 10 people successfully treated with surgery for rectal cancer develop a condition after initial surgery called Lower Anterior Section Syndrome  (LARS) which can lead to faecal incontinence or a very urgent need to use the toilet, and as many a  quarter (25%) go on to have long-term effects.  

Bowel Research UK surveyed 2000 UK adults, conducted by market researchers OnePoll, and found that among those who stated they have a chronic bowel condition, almost 6 in 10 (58%) agreed that fear of faecal incontinence had restricted their lives, limited travelling, social contact and many other regular activities. 

Many respondents admitted to being too embarrassed to disclose whether they needed to wear incontinence pads, with more than six in ten (62%) saying they would be either uncomfortable or embarrassed to tell someone that they wore them. 

However, eight in 10 agreed that people should not be embarrassed to talk to others about their bowels and incontinence despite the stigma, which is why Bowel Research UK is launching its new  Auguts campaign to help overcome natural reticence talking about their conditions.  

While over half of people living with a bowel disease (57%) said they had talked to their family, friends and employer about their condition, respondents said there were some family, friends or colleagues with whom they still preferred not to share information about their bowel conditions.  

Encouragingly, seven in 10 surveyed agreed that public campaigns were an important way of encouraging people to talk without embarrassment about their bowels. 

Embarrassment causes a third of bowel disease patients to suffer in silence

Interestingly, almost six in 10 (57%) respondents who admitted to a bowel condition said they had discussed their bowel issues face-to-face or over the phone. However, the number of people sharing bowel health information on social media sites or in website chat rooms was smaller. It’s likely a preference for face-to-face and phone communication reflects the age of respondents because almost a quarter (24%) of those surveyed were aged 65 years and over. This figure includes respondents without specific bowel-related conditions, however.   

Today, Bowel Research UK launches its new #Auguts ‘Hard to…’ public information campaign that encourages people with bowel disease to talk safely about their bowels and highlights less well-known bowel conditions that find it hard to attract funding for essential scientific research.  

Currently, only 6 to 8 percent of all medical research applications receive funding, and bowel disease research applications achieve even less than that, which is why BRUK launched its inaugural Auguts campaign last year. 

This year’s new Auguts campaign features messaging from last year and lots of fresh content that will be promoted on the charity’s website and social media channels throughout the month of August.  

There is a new #Auguts page on the Bowel Research UK website hosting a short ‘hero’ video showcasing the main details of the campaign, with a voiceover by well-known actor Miles Jupp. There are also four separate short videos highlighting personal stories from patients in conversation with surgeons and specialist bowel disease researchers, who share their experiences of living with and managing chronic bowel conditions. Members of the public will also again be encouraged during August to submit their own stories to the Auguts pages.  

On top, there is a fun animated ‘card pull’ quiz where people can click questions with multiple-choice answers to help them learn more about different kinds of bowel diseases and conditions.  

Lynn Dunne, CEO of Bowel Research UK, said: 

“This year’s Auguts campaign focuses on the often difficult issues that arise from living with a  chronic bowel disease or condition, and how challenging social stigma helps people to cope better with them.  

“In recent years we have come a long way in talking about our bowels and recognising symptoms of bowel cancer. But our new survey shows that it can still be a very difficult topic to raise, even among family, friends and close colleagues.  

“This year we also raising awareness of lesser known and understood conditions like Lower Anterior Resection Syndrome (LARS) and diverticulitis. While these bowel conditions are less common, they affect many thousands of people. We want to highlight our challenge in ensuring these conditions  receive the vital research funding they need, so future generations will have new treatments and  potentially even cures.”

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