Taking the test could save your life
If you are aged 60-74 and registered with a GP then you should automatically be sent a free NHS Bowel cancer screening kit in the post, every two years. If you are 75+ then you can request a kit to be sent to you. Don’t be embarrassed to complete the test; it could save your life. You do the test at home. It involves going to the toilet 3 times within 10 days and taking a sample of your poo and, using the cardboard sticks provided, putting it into the test kit. You then post the kit in the prepaid envelope to the organisation that tests your samples and they will usually send you your results by post within 2 weeks. They check your samples for tiny amounts of blood in the poo that may be too small to be seen, but could be an indication of bowel cancer. If they find any then you will be offered further tests at the hospital to find out exactly what is happening.
Please don’t be embarrassed or afraid. Bowel cancer screening is a simple way to detect if something is wrong at an early stage which greatly increases the probability of effective treatment. You won’t be alone doing this either. Across the North West over 26,300 men and women complete and return a bowel cancer screening test every month.
If in the normal course of events you notice any unusual or persistent changes to your poo or bowel habits, then don’t wait for the screening kit to arrive – see your doctor right away.
Carol Ratcliffe is 71 years of age and her bowel screening test was positive. She says, “I had no symptoms when I received the bowel cancer screening test, but when I saw it was from the NHS, I thought it was important to do. I was a bit shocked when I was diagnosed, but thankfully my cancer was found early. I had surgery a month later and needed no further treatment. I’m still living life to the full”.
Bowel cancer is the 4th most common type of cancer in the UK and the risk increases with age. More than 9 in 10 people who are diagnosed with it are aged 55 or over, so do please take the test. You can also help to prevent it by taking care of yourself. The NHS estimate that more than 40% of cases could be prevented by:
Watching your weight, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, taking regular exercise, cutting down on alcohol and stopping smoking.
For more information, to answer any questions or to request a kit if you’re 75 or over call the confidential Freephone NHS Bowel cancer Screening Helpline on 0800 707 60 60 (Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm).