Cancer survivor Gillian says screen your poo

PATIENTS who have survived bowel cancer have been talking to Northumberland residents, in a campaign to get people to ‘screen their poo.’

The volunteers talked to residents about the importance of taking part in NHS bowel screening, which can pick up bowel cancer early and save lives.

The campaign is being run by the primary care trusts in the North East which want more people to screen their poo for the disease, when at the age of 60, they receive an invitation to do so.

Gillian Birkby-Parker, from Alnwick, was diagnosed early and then successfully treated for bowel cancer, after taking part in screening.

She said: “I can’t emphasise the value of screening and early detection enough. My life has been saved twice by screening so I recommend to everyone, when you get the chance, please take it.”

At the moment, more than half the over-60s in the North East, who are sent screening kits every two years, use them. The test involves using a special kit to collect small samples of bowel movements at home, wiping the samples on a special card, then sending them in a hygienically-sealed, prepaid envelope to a laboratory for testing.

Gillian, now 71, said of the screening: “The value of early detection can’t be underestimated. My cancer was caught early enough to be treated effectively and after the operation I had six months of chemotherapy tablets as a precaution because there was a small chance one of my lymph nodes might have been affected.

“Once you’ve had your diagnosis you’re really well looked after and it’s great to be in safe and caring hands. I have a blood test every six months and will be having a colonoscopy examination as part of the follow-up next year. I have had a named, designated nurse, who I’ve been seeing at Alnwick hospital to check how I’m doing and who I can call any time for advice and support.

“Now I’m all clear and I only need to have a check-up appointment once a year.

“I’m a very fit person and generally don’t tend to get ill with colds and the like, but I have actually now had cancer twice. I had breast cancer a few years back that was picked up through screening as well. So my life has been saved twice by screening.”

Dr Nonnie Crawford, cancer network director of public health, said: “Getting more people to use the test would lead to more early detection of bowel cancer.”