The TV presenter Sean Fletcher, Olympic athlete Kriss Akabusi MBE and Dame Floella Benjamin are supporting the first national NHS bowel screening campaign that asks anyone who receives a free test kit: “put it by the loo, don’t put it off” as recent data showed that almost one third (30%) of people do not return the potentially lifesaving tests.
Dr Austin Obichere, Director of UCLH’s Bowel Cancer Screening Programme explains: “The test is really effective and you can do it in the privacy of your own home. I realise my patients may feel the test is unnecessary if they do not feel unwell, or if they have not requested it. But it can pick up symptoms before you even notice them and if you complete it as soon as you receive it, it could help save your life.”
Kriss Akabusi, bowel cancer survivor said: “As a bowel cancer survivor, I urge everyone who has received their kit not to ignore it. You don’t need to visit a doctor, you can do it at home, it could save your life.”
The NHS bowel cancer screening programme involves using a test kit, which is delivered to your door through the post. The test detects small amounts of blood in stool, which would be too tiny to be visible to people and could appear before someone may notice anything is wrong.
A tiny sample of stool is collected using the plastic stick provided and is placed in a sample bottle before being sent back to the NHS, free of charge, for laboratory analysis.
More than half a million bowel screening test kits are posted out each month to eligible people, who are automatically sent a kit every two years if they are registered with a GP practice and live in England.
Dr Austin says “If you’re aged 60 to 74, live in England and are registered with a GP practice, you’ll be sent a kit in the post automatically. As part of plans to lower the age of people that receive the test to age 50 by 2025, 56-year-olds are also now sent the test kit and it is currently being rolled out to 58-year-olds.
“If you are sent a kit, please do use it. Most people who return the kit do not require any further investigations. If cancer is found, it is always best to catch it early when it’s easier to treat.”
Maxwell Egbujor, 56, said: “I felt a bit embarrassed when I received the kit for the first time in the post, but my girlfriend – a nurse, encouraged me to do it. I’d noticed small amounts of blood when going to the toilet on and off but put it down to eating heavy foods and didn’t realise this could be a sign of cancer.”
As a result of the test, he was invited to see Dr Austin Obichere who investigated and found a tumour. “I had urgent surgery to remove the growth before it spread and now my follow up scans show all is well.”
“The Bowel Cancer Screening Kit is a godsend. If I didn’t complete it and without the encouragement of my girlfriend, things would have been very different.”
People concerned that they may have missed their invitation or have lost or thrown away their kit can call the free bowel cancer screening helpline for advice on 0800 707 60 60. Information on bowel cancer and the screening programme can be found at: nhs.uk/bowel-screening.