A bowel cancer screening programme run by Kettering General Hospital is helping to save lives by treating cancers quickly and by removing pre-cancerous growths.
Since the launch of screening in 2007 the hospital has helped to identify 44 Northamptonshire people with cancers and 395 with other growths at the end of its first ever screening cycle.
The new screening programme is being run by KGH and covers the entire Northamptonshire, Rutland and Leicestershire area.
It means that people like Cecelia Tomlinson, from Burton Latimer, have been diagnosed with cancer at an early stage and been able to be quickly treated for it.
Cecelia, 65, said: “My husband Peter and I got our home test kit in the post in January and sent off the sample. The laboratory found that I needed further investigation and I visited Kettering General and spoke to a nurse about what that meant.
“Then I had a colonoscopy in March to look at my bowel and they found a growth. After some more tests they found it was a cancer and they removed it with key hole surgery in March.
“The operation went well, the staff at KGH were brilliant and very supportive, and I am now fully recovered and haven’t needed any further treatment. I will need to have six monthly checks for the next five years but then I will get the all clear.
“I know some people have hesitated to do the test and send it off but I would say you must do it. If I hadn’t had it done and been quickly treated things could have been much worse. I think people should make sure they do the test – it could save their lives.”
KGH made a successful bid to become NHS Bowel Screening Centre for Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland in December 2007.
Screening involves sending all people in the 60-69 age group an invitation by post to take part in screening. They then send a sample of their stool in a sealed container to a regional screening laboratory.
If there is an indication of a possible problem (blood found in the stool) people are invited to KGH (or to another hospital local to them) for further investigation which may be followed by a colonoscopy examination. This involves using a thin flexible tube called an endoscope, which has a camera capacity, to examine their bowel.
Since the launch of the Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland (LNR) screening programme some 140,763 peoplehave been sent screening invitations resulting in 700 colonoscopy examinations at Kettering General Hospital (and some 850 elsewhere). As a result 65 patients in the LNR area were diagnosed with bowel cancer and some 799 with polyps (small growths in the bowel which potentially can turn cancerous.) The figures for Northamptonshire are (as mentioned earlier) 44 cancers and 395 growths.
Consultant gastroenterologist Dr Andrew Dixon said: “The bowel cancer screening programme has been a great success and it is helping us to diagnose and treat problems often before the person is even aware they have anything wrong.
“Like the other great screening programmes before it, such as breast cancer screening, this sort of routine screening will become something all people should be do when they reach a certain age.
“The next round of bowel cancer screening for Northamptonshire, Rutland and Leicestershire is now underway and over the next two years the next set of people in this age group will be sent screening kits.
“We would urge all of the people who receive a screening kit to send off their samples. Only a very small proportion of people tested, about 2%, actually need any treatment but it is very important to treat any illnesses we discover as soon as possible.”
The NHS Bowel Screening Programme was started in 2006 and rolled out across the country in stages to ensure that by 2010 all people aged 60-69 would have received a first screening – the aim is to do then to continue with screening every two years from 2010.