Sheffield cancer survivor backs call for better bowel screening

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A bowel cancer survivor from Hope, near Sheffield, is backing calls by Yorkshire Cancer Research for proposed improvements in screening to be rolled out across the country urgently.

Christine Ord was diagnosed with bowel cancer in July 2014 at 61. She had taken part in screening, but her cancer wasn’t picked up by the test.

At the moment men and women in England are sent a home screening kit, known as the ‘faecal occult blood’ test, when they turn 60, then every two years until the age of 74.

The test looks for small amounts of blood in poo which can be a sign of cancer. If the screening result is positive further tests will look for cancer, or small growths in the bowel.

The early detection of cancer means it can often be treated more effectively. When someone is diagnosed with bowel cancer through screening they have a 93 per cent chance of surviving for at least three years after diagnosis, compared to 68 per cent if they are referred to hospital via their GP.

With regular screening, 16 per cent fewer people die from bowel cancer. However, participation in the current screening programme is low, with 4 in 10 people in Yorkshire failing to complete the test when invited.

A negative result does not necessarily mean there is no cancer present.

Christine, a former teacher, completed and returned her home screening kit as soon as she received it following her 60th birthday. Her result was inconclusive, meaning she had to complete the test again, but eventually she was told she was in the clear.

Less than two years later she discovered she had cancer after noticing blood in her poo.

Christine, who had previously been diagnosed with and treated for ovarian and skin cancer, said: “Having already undergone treatment for two different types of cancer, I was quite the expert by the time I noticed the symptoms of bowel cancer. Had that not been the case, I might not have seen my doctor.

“The day before my operation to remove the tumour, I received my second screening kit. I know a normal result doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have cancer, but it came as a shock, especially as my cancer was diagnosed at a late stage.”

Christine urges people to take part in screening. She is also calling for the screening age to be lowered and for a new, more effective test - the Faecal Immunochemical Test - to be introduced in England.

Dr Stuart Griffiths, Director of Research and Services at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “Although the current bowel cancer screening programme is effective in picking up some cancers at an early stage, we know that many people do not complete the test. It is clear that improvements in the service are now urgently required.”

If you have missed a bowel screening appointment, have not been sent a kit, or are aged 75 or over, call the Freephone helpline on 0800 707 60 60 to request a FOB test kit.