Royal Surrey County Hospital is marking Bowel Cancer Awareness month by encouraging people to put their embarrassment to one side and take advantage of screening opportunities. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and affects 1 in 18 people in their lifetime.
Aircraft engineer Peter Scott had not given bowel cancer much thought until a home screen kit arrived through his letter box. The 63-year-old has shared his experience, which included surgery in November last year, to raise awareness of the importance of screening.
Mr Scott said: “This all started for me around my 60th birthday when the package arrived and I thought ‘I’m not doing that, who wants to do that?’”.
Mr Scott from Woking, Surrey, ignored the first screening kit and it was only when a second arrived that he decided to take the test.
The home tests kits are sent every two years to men and women aged 60 to 74 years and aim to detect small amounts of blood in the stool which may be shed from the surface of polyps or a bowel cancer.
Mr Scott’s test proved positive and he was invited to attend one of the screening practitioner clinics at Royal Surrey County Hospital to discuss a further investigation with colonoscopy, a camera test of the bowel which looks carefully around the colon. His colonoscopy revealed two large polyps in the bowel which could have developed into cancer if left untreated. As they were too large to be safely removed during colonoscopy, he had an operation to remove the relevant section of his bowel.
“I was home within two-and-a-half days of the procedure and back to work within a few weeks; it was absolutely amazing.
My wife’s father died of bowel cancer and I feel very fortunate that I was screened and the polyps were removed. Any initial reservations I had about completing the home screening kit now seem very silly and I have been encouraging everyone I know to take the opportunity to get tested.”
Mr John Stebbing, Clinical Director of the Surrey Screening Centre, said “The most common symptoms of bowel cancer are blood within the stool and a change in bowel habit and anyone with persistent symptoms should discuss them with their GP. Bowel screening offers a real opportunity to try and detect disease before symptoms develop, making any cancers found easier to treat effectively and giving a better chance of long term survival. As in Mr Scott’s case, screening also detects many benign polyps which have the potential to develop into cancers. Most of these can be removed during colonoscopy and, where appropriate, this leads on to regular surveillance with colonoscopy to check for any further polyps.”