Why would you turn this invitation down?
More than half of people don’t take up their offer of a bowel cancer test
On my 55th birthday not only did I receive some cards in the post from friends and family but also an invitation – not to a party – but to attend a Bowel Scope Screening. Coincidentally my new neighbour, who also shares the same date of birth, received the same invitation on the same day as me.
The NHS Bowel Scope Screening Programme offers a one-off test to 55-year-olds that involve a specially trained nurse or doctor using a flexible tube, with a tiny camera on the end, to look inside the large bowel. The test helps prevent bowel cancer by finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps. It can also detect cancer that has already started to develop before symptoms are noticed and when it’s easier to treat.
So today was the day that I attended my screening, a little bit apprehensive, but then I have had three children, and several mammograms and smear tests, so mentally I was prepared for worse! Actually, I was feeling very glad that I had been given this opportunity to check to see if there were any signs that I could develop bowel cancer in the near future. An acquaintance of mine who was a similar age as I, sadly died last year of bowel cancer leaving her four teenage sons and husband without a mother and wife.
So, I arrived for my appointment and was so impressed by the whole set up. I had encounters with seven different members of the department from reception, to a nurse who prepared me, three members of the team in the consulting room, and then two aftercare professionals. And all this provided by the NHS … not to mention the two surgical gowns I used and lovely pair of red non-slip socks, plus all the paperwork that I was sent in preparation for the day. How lucky are we to be offered this service and an invitation to check our health? … yet to my surprise, apparently many people never except!
I was chatting to the surgeon who was in charge of the camera and the entire procedure and he said:
“These are still early days for the bowel scope programme – there hasn’t been a publicity campaign about it yet, and bowel screening is generally not as familiar to people as breast-screening mammograms or cervical-screening smear tests. However, I am surprised that more men were willing to have the test than women.’
“There are lots of reasons why people, wherever they live, might not have the test – and these can include practical barriers such as embarrassment about the procedure or problems taking time off work to keep the appointment.”
So the purpose of this short feature is to reassure any fellow 55-year-old Silversurfers who have received the exclusive invite, and who are reluctant to accept … please accept it!
I can honestly say that although it was only very slightly uncomfortable, I was treated in a totally dignified manner, and was never once made to feel embarrassed in any way. You have to do a DIY enema in the comfort of your own home before you attend, which sounds a lot more of a challenge than it actually is – the rest is easy, and the hardest part of the whole event was trying to find a parking space at the hospital!
My bowel all seems fine, with two tiny polyps removed for further investigation, but this is routine and is nothing to worry about. I would far rather have early detection of cancer with options of treatment than to find out too late.
If you have had a mammogram in the past then this is a breeze! Not nearly as painful and so thorough – it was a joy to see the inside of my shiny pink bowl on the television screen and the surgeon had a comedy script ready prepared to make me feel at ease.
And my final tip – a sense of humour always helps in these situations so keep it light-hearted … bottoms are a topic of humour at the best of times – we all have them, we all poo and pass ‘love puffs’ most days, even though we might not like to admit it!
Feel free to leave any questions for me in the comments below and I will happily answer them for you if I can.
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