Bowel cancer screening saved my life says Nancy

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A Castlerock woman has spoken of how bowel cancer screening saved her life.

Nancy Tannahill this week backed a Northern Trust call reminding people to complete and return their screening kit.

Recalling her own experience, Nancy said that had no symptoms, was fit and feeling well and when the screening kit arrived through her door she did not think anything of it.

“I got the screening kit through the post and I admit it lay for one or two weeks before my daughter insisted that I did it,” said Nancy, speaking during bowel cancer awareness month.

“After I completed the first test I was asked to do a second test.

“I then got a letter the following week asking me to contact Whiteabbey Hospital, to arrange for an appointment to have a colonoscopy.

“In early December 2010 I met with Dr Rodgers who performed the colonoscopy, following this he told me that I had bowel cancer.

“On January 7, 2011 I had an operation to remove the cancer and thankfully I did not need any further treatment.

“I am now clear, but it was only because of the bowel screening that I found out I had cancer, as I had no symptoms. One doctor told me that he would only give me two years to live if I had done nothing.

“I could have died if I had not received the screening kit, so it annoys me to hear about people who get the screening kit and throw them in the bin. People need to complete them in as they are a life saver.” said Nancy.

The Northern Ireland Bowel Cancer Screening Programme offers screening every two years to men and women aged 60 to 69. The programme is being rolled out on a phased basis.

People in this age group are sent an invitation, information materials and a screening kit so they can do the test at home.

Bowel cancer kills more than 400 people annually in Northern Ireland and there are 1,000 new cases every year.

Early treatment is vital to ensure patients have the best chance of surviving the condition.

Dr Colin Rodgers, Consultant Gastroenterologist said, “The Bowel Cancer Screening Programme can detect signs of bowel cancer at a very early stage, when there is a 90 percent chance that treatment will be successful. This programme has the potential to reduce deaths from bowel cancer by 15 percent, which would mean 60 fewer deaths in Northern Ireland each year.

“This screening programme tests stool samples for minute traces of blood. If blood is found in the sample the person will then be invited to have a colonoscopy.

“Regional screening programme was launch a year ago and offers bowel screening to men and women aged 60 to 69. Four out of five people who develop bowel cancer are over 60”.

Sharon Henry, Specialist Screening Practitioner said, “The aim of the bowel cancer screening programme is early detection of potential cancers and to treat before they or the symptoms develop.

“The majority of cancers that we have picked up have come from people with absolutely no symptoms, so even if people have no symptoms and feel well, they should still participate in the programme and complete and return the kit.”

USE THE KIT...Sharon Henry, Specialist Screening Practitioner, Alison Spence, Specialist Screening Practitioner, Dr Colin Rodgers, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Nancy and Debbie Tannahill. CR16-225s