A Litherland grand-dad has been chosen to star in a new Cancer Research UK awareness campaign that has been launched in Merseyside.
Peter Matthews, 68, will front the campaign which highlights the role of bowel cancer screening in helping to save lives like his. It’s aimed at men and women aged 60-74 years to encourage them to take part in the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening programme. People in this age bracket receive an NHS bowel cancer screening kit routinely through the post, every two years. The advert is designed to help them understand what bowel cancer screening means for them and encourage participation.
Bowel cancer screening is a simple and private test that can be done at home and is designed to detect the early signs of bowel cancer. Posters showing Peter holding up a test kit will feature in newspaper adverts and on buses, bus stops and phone boxes across Merseyside. Peter, who is married with three children and has seven grandchildren, was diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer earlier this year after taking part in the bowel cancer screening programme.
Peter hopes the posters will help encourage more people to take part. He said “I know from personal experience that bowel cancer screening really can save lives. I hope that when men and women see my picture around Merseyside and then receive the kit they will be encouraged to complete it and send it back.”
Peter, a retired council worker, had not experienced any bowel related symptoms prior to completing the screening test, which he had done routinely since first receiving a kit six years ago. He said “I had no problems with the kit and found it easy to use. I sent back the first test straight away, as I always do, but was asked to complete another when they found a trace of blood. After the second test I had a number of polyps removed and tested and they came back as cancerous.”
Peter underwent surgery at Aintree University Hospital to remove a piece of his bowel. The cancer had not spread and he did not need any further treatment. He added “I feel very lucky indeed that my cancer was caught early. Friends tell me they can’t believe how easy it all was. The whole process only took a few months from diagnosis to completing my treatment. And I will continue to have regular checkups over the next three years. We’re just enjoying getting back to normal now – and I am being kept busy helping to look after my grandchildren.”
Every year, 2000 people aged 60 – 74 are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the North West, and 600 people of the same age in the region will die from the disease.
Dr Debbie Harvey, NHS South Sefton CCG lead for cancer and GP cancer lead for Merseyside and Cheshire, said “Peter is a fantastic ambassador for our awareness campaign which highlights the role of bowel cancer screening in helping to save lives. We hope that his experience will help more people to see bowel cancer screening as a normal part of looking after their health. The awareness campaign also emphasises the fact that completing the test is easier than people might think.”
Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North West, said “Some don’t return the test kit because they don’t understand why they need to take part if they aren’t ill. But screening is designed to detect bowel cancer before it has a chance to develop; therefore it’s relevant even for people with no bowel related symptoms at all. But we also know people are confused about how to use the test kit or are put off by the idea of using it. But the kit comes with clear step-by-step instructions or people can find out more by visiting the Cancer Research UK website.”
“Once the sample has been checked in the lab, the NHS will send a letter confirming no further action is required or inviting the participant to go for further tests. Even if something does show up, it doesn’t mean it will turn out to be cancer. Anyone who wants more information can pick up the phone to one of our Cancer Research UK information nurses and discuss any concerns they have confidentially.”
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second most common cause of cancer deaths. Going for bowel cancer screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 25 per cent.
Dr Daniel Seddon, Public Health England’s Screening and Immunisation Lead for NHS England in Merseyside said “It is sensible to take part in bowel cancer screening and Peter Matthew’s story shows why: screening can detect cancers in the early stages, when treatment is easier and works better. If you are sent a test kit, I encourage you to follow the instructions and send it in and, there is a free advice line if you have any questions about it. If you have had a test kit and lost it, you can call for another kit to be posted to you.”
Cancer Research UK is working in partnership with Merseyside NHS and Local Authority teams across the North West in an effort to boost the number of people taking part in the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.
The awareness campaign is being rolled out in Merseyside and select locations across England following the success of a recent pilot project in London.
Cancer Research UK believes that no one should be diagnosed too late to have treatment that might save their life. Diagnosing cancer early is one of the most powerful ways to beat it. For more information please visit www.cruk.org.uk/bowelscreening, or ring Cancer Research UK’s information nurses on 0808 800 4040.