With nearly half the people in Leeds (44%) ignoring their bowel cancer screening tests, Leeds City Council and the NHS and have launched a new initiative to encourage more people to take this simple health check that can save lives. Feedback from the public revealed that some people found the test off-putting, so the NHS and council have joined forces to send out helper kits to 12,500 people. Currently all 60-74 year-olds receive bowel cancer screening tests every two years, sent directly to their home address as part of a national screening programme. For the next three months, anyone getting the test will also receive a special helper kit. The screening test itself is a simple kit of three items – a stick for taking a poo sample, a card for placing the samples which can be hygienically sealed, and a freepost envelope for returning the kit. The helper kits simplify things even more.
Ayeesha Lewis, Advanced Health Improvement Specialist for Cancer, Public Health, said: “Some people have trouble completing the test, and now the extra helper kit makes it easier. It contains a pair of disposable gloves and a device to place on your toilet seat to make taking a sample easier. There is also an instructions guide with pictures in the pack. “We know the helper kits can make a big difference in encouraging people to take the test and ultimately, this could save lives in Leeds.”
Taking the bowel cancer screening test can be a lifesaver as it provides an opportunity to catch bowel cancer in the earlier stages, providing a much better chance of treating it successfully. 97% of people diagnosed at the earliest stage of bowel cancer will survive for more than five years. However, fewer than 10% of people diagnosed at the latest stage of bowel cancer will survive for more than five years. Bowel cancer is one of the UK’s most common cancer killers and 40,000 people are diagnosed with this illness every year. 80% of people who develop bowel cancer are aged 60 and over. Thanks to an NHS bowel cancer screening test, Leeds people in that age group have the opportunity to take a test at their own convenience in their own home. Anyone aged 60, who is registered with a GP, will automatically receive a letter telling them about the scheme and then a kit is posted to them so they can take the test. The samples are then simply posted back for testing and results sent out a few weeks later.
If you want to know more about the bowel cancer screening test you can call the free NHS helpline on 0800 707 6060 or visit www.leeds.gov.uk/bowelcancer. If you or someone you know is under 60 and worried about possible symptoms get in touch with a GP to find out what options are available.