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Highlanders Encouraged To Take Part In Scottish Bowel Screening Programme

Issued: 12 Jul 2010

Anyone who receives a bowel screening kit in the post is being encouraged to use it - as it could save their life.

Bowel screening aims to cut the number of bowel cancer deaths by finding early stage disease in people with no symptoms.

And, before the end of November 2011, men and women aged 50 to 74 years will be invited to participate in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme by completing a home screening test.

Susan Russel, 50, who lives near Nairn and works for NHS Highland as Professional Lead for Children's Services for the South East Community Health Partnership, was one of the first people in Highland to be invited to take part.

Ms Russel said: “As I have a nursing background, I was well aware of what bowel screening is all about and the importance of such tests. I am also aware of how important it is to catch and treat cancers early.

“I developed breast cancer three years ago, but was lucky enough to find it early and get treated so I had no hesitation in realising the importance of this new screening programme. You never think cancer will happen to you – but it can.

“However, I was still a bit surprised when the package dropped through the letter box as I’d only just had my 50th birthday.”

Inside, she found some leaflets and a DIY bowel screening home test kit, consisting of a test card and some cardboard sticks.

Ms Russel said: “There was never any doubt in my mind that I should do it as it was a great opportunity to get tested for a potentially life threatening illness.

“The instructions were very easy to follow, but I have to admit that the process is not something most people will be comfortable with. However it is fairly easy. All you do is use the little cardboard sticks to rub some poo onto the test card, date the card, make sure it is appropriately labelled and send it off in the reply-paid envelope for it to be tested.

“Two weeks later, I received a letter telling me the results were clear.”

And she is keen to encourage other people to use the kits when they receive them.

Ms Russel said: “It is well worth the little bit of effort that is required to reduce your risk of dying from bowel cancer.

“It would be awful if someone decided against doing the test only to discover at some point in the future that they had developed bowel cancer.

“And, in the unlikely event that their test is positive, they would be in the best position possible to get treatment and hopefully make a full recovery.”

The bowel screening test aims to pick up very small amounts of blood in bowel motions – amounts so small they are not visible to the naked eye - as this may be associated with bowel cancer. These may be detected in bowel motions without people having any symptoms.

Most people who do the test will get a negative result. However, if blood is found, this does not necessarily mean they have bowel cancer and further tests will be carried out to discover the cause. Nine out of 10 people with a positive test result do not have bowel cancer.

Dr Rob Henderson, Consultant in Public Health Medicine and Co-ordinator of the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme for NHS Highland, said: “Bowel screening increases the proportion of people diagnosed with early bowel cancer and, if the condition is picked up at an early stage, there is a 90% chance of treating it successfully.

“If you are invited to take part in bowel screening, please do the test – it could be a lifesaver.”

More information about the programme is available on the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme website at www.bowelscreening.scot.nhs.uk or by phoning the Scottish Bowel Screening Helpline on freephone 0800 0121 833.

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme