Screening saves lives says Horsham bowel cancer survivor

Steve Lewis. Photo courtesy of Beating Bowel Cancer
Steve Lewis. Photo courtesy of Beating Bowel Cancer

A bowel cancer survivor from Southwater is urging people to take advantage of the test that saved his life.

Steve Lewis is sharing his story on the tenth anniversary of the introduction of bowel cancer screening in England.

The screening programme includes test kits which are posted automatically to all UK residents registered with a GP once they reach the age of 60.

When Steve Lewis turned 60 last year, he says his life was as near to perfect as possible.

Then he received the invitation to take part in the screening programme. A couple of weeks later, and with a bit of a nudge from his wife, he completed the samples and sent them off. The tests were abnormal and within weeks he discovered he had bowel cancer.

Steve had surgery to remove the affected part of the bowel and was fitted with a temporary stoma bag. He was told that the cancer has been caught at an early stage and indications were that the surgery had removed it. There was no need for chemotherapy or radiotherapy and Steve is readjusting to life back to where it was before surgery.

“I don’t know who posted my invitation, what I do know is it saved my life,” he said.

“I hadn’t had a single symptom, so when the screening test came through the door I never thought it would show anything.

“The test couldn’t be more quick and simple to do,” he added. “While it may sound a bit embarrassing or unpleasant, it’s so important to put aside a few minutes to do the test even if you feel fit and healthy, because the test can detect cancer at an early stage before any symptoms are visible. Completing and returning your kit as quickly as possible is crucial as any delay could be life-threatening.”

Although bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, 90 per cent of cases can be successfully treated if they are diagnosed early, as opposed to less than ten per cent of cases diagnosed at a later stage.

A statement from the charity Beating Bowel Cancer said: “All men and women in England aged 60-74 are currently invited to carry out an FOB (faecal occult blood) test at home every two years. The test involves collecting small samples of your bowel motion on a special card. It’s completed over the course of a few days and then returned in the post to a central laboratory for the results. Unfortunately many people fail to complete the screening kit.

“Despite being a successful and established programme, bowel cancer screening has lower participation compared to the national cancer screening programmes for breast and cervical.

“Only six in ten people who are sent the test actually return it.

“Last month the government announced that the current FOB screening test will be replaced over the next two years with the new Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), which is easier to use and more accurate.

“It has been estimated that the new test will increase screening uptake by around ten per cent - meaning an additional 200,000 people will test themselves each year.”

Charlotte Dawson, head of nurse advisory for Beating Bowel Cancer, said: “The screening programme has saved the lives of thousands of bowel cancer patients over the last decade but too many people are still not completing the test. We want to see a significant increase in the numbers of people being screened so they are more in line with breast and cervical cancer screening programmes.

“Introducing the new FIT test is an excellent move in the right direction and it should be made available across the country as soon as possible.

“In the meantime, it’s important that if you receive the existing test through the post that you complete it, as it could save your life.”

For more information about the bowel cancer go to https://www.beatingbowelcancer.org/

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