A Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) resident is urging everyone who gets offered free NHS bowel cancer screening to do the test. Despite having no worrying symptoms, the test may have helped save his life.
The NHS bowel cancer screening home test kit arrived in Mike Wells’ letterbox shortly after his 65th birthday. Every two years, all men and women aged 60 to 74 who are registered with a GP in England are automatically sent a home test kit to provide stool samples.
“Although the thought of the test isn’t a pleasant one, I did do it and sent it off,” said Mike, who lives in Bath with his wife of 50 years.
“I thought little of it as I’d had no symptoms whatsoever and considered myself to be in good health. However, I received notification within two weeks that blood had been found in my sample and I was recommended to have a colonoscopy.
“A cancerous tumour was discovered in my lower bowel and arrangements were made to remove it,” added Mike.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in men in the UK, with almost 19,000 men diagnosed in England every year. However, uptake of the bowel cancer screening home test kits is low, with only 61% of B&NES men and women aged 60 to 74 returning the test in 2016-17. Men in particular are less likely to send in a sample, so family members are asked to encourage them to do so.
Mike says he was initially a bit concerned about having the colonoscopy, but that his GP – Dr Ian Orpen – gave him reassurance and encouraged him to proceed with it.
“Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, which is a tragedy, because it is treatable and curable – especially if diagnosed early,” said Ian, a GP in Bath and the Clinical Chair of Bath and North East Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group.
“Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer, but this drops significantly as the disease develops,” he added.
Mike was monitored every six months after his surgery to make sure no cancer had returned and he was subsequently given the all clear.
Councillor Vic Pritchard, (Conservative, Chew Valley South), Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health at B&NES Council, said: “Mike’s story is a great example of how screening programmes really do save lives.
“His case also shows that not everyone will have symptoms of serious illness, so it’s always worth taking part in free screening and health checks offered by the NHS.”
Symptoms of bowel cancer to be aware of include; bleeding when going to the toilet, a persistent change in bowel habit, unexplained weight loss and a pain or lump in your stomach. If you are worried about bowel cancer, talk to your GP.