The Department of Health has launched a new cancer awareness campaign focusing on the early signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.
Pilot campaigns costing £1.75 million will run for seven weeks in the east and south-west of England, before being rolled out nationwide if successful.
The 'Be Clear on Cancer' adverts will appear on regional TV and radio and in newspapers, and feature GPs encouraging patients to tell them about any changes in their bowel movements or abnormal bleeding, as these may be early signs of bowel cancer.
If bowel cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage, the chances of successful treatment are higher with more than nine out of ten people surviving for at least five years. But the disease is harder to treat when it is diagnosed at an advanced stage.
The coalition government has made earlier diagnosis of cancer one of its priorities and the new campaign is part of a broader programme of work to improve cancer services and outcomes.
Launching the campaign, health minister Paul Burstow said that it uses "simple messages to make people aware of the early signs of bowel cancer and to give them the confidence to talk to their GP about them".
He explained: "To make sure we get it right, we're testing this campaign in two regions and, if it works, we'll roll it out nationally."
Sarah Lyness, Cancer Research UK's executive director of communications and information, said: "We welcome this campaign because spotting cancer early saves lives. Most changes in bowel habits probably won't be cancer, but if they are it is much better to be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.
"So if people notice a change that lasts three weeks or more - whether it's looser poo, bleeding or anything else that is unusual for them - they should report the symptoms to their doctor without further delay."