A Timperley woman has urged anyone receiving a bowel cancer home testing kit to use it after admitting she “wouldn’t be here” if she had ignored hers.
As part of the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, all patients aged between 50 and 74 are sent a simple home testing kit every two years from NHS England.
Valerie Thompson said she had received a kit but considered throwing it away as she had no symptoms.
But she decided to do it and was diagnosed with bowel cancer on her return from a trip to Australia.
She said: “I had no symptoms and was going to throw the test away when it came through the post. I decided to do it and then headed on holiday to Australia.
“Feeling a bit tired on my return – which I assumed was jet lag – and having lost a bit of weight which I thought was due to endless walking and a different holiday diet, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
“I underwent a colonoscopy and chemo and I have been lucky: if I had ignored the test, the bowel cancer may not have been picked up early and I may not be here today. Sadly my husband was also diagnosed with bowel cancer at a later stage and he lost his life to the condition. It’s so important to act fast. The tests can be life saving.”
She added: “I wouldn’t be here if I had ignored the home test kit for bowel cancer.”
Mrs Thompson said that while people were often “embarrassed” to talk about bodily functions, anyone with concerns about a change in their bowel habits should speak to their GP.
Dr Amal Hashim of Park Medical Practice in Timperley, part of Altrincham Healthcare Alliance PCN, has seen a 46% increase in lower gastrointestinal cancers, which includes bowel cancer, across its five practices since 2020.
She explained: “Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. Early diagnosis is vital: if bowel cancer is found early there’s a much higher chance of successful treatment than when cancer has become more widespread.”
She said that symptoms to look out for included:
- Bleeding from the bottom and/or blood in poo
- A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in the tummy
“We’re urging everyone who receives an NHS England home test for bowel cancer to complete the quick and simple test,” Dr Hashim added.
“More than 16,500 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year with 1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women diagnosed with the condition during their lifetime. The message is simple: completing a FIT test could save your life, but please contact your GP if you’ve any symptoms.”
Patients can call the screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60 or for more information about bowel cancer screening in England, visit the NHS website.
The simple FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) kit is also available to those aged 75+ by calling the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.