‘Cancer test kit saved my life’

Brian Stephens, extreme sports enthusiast.
Brian Stephens, extreme sports enthusiast.
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ENDURANCE athlete and pensioner Brian Stephens is calling on older people not to ignore cancer test kits which are delivered to their homes – after one saved his life.

Despite being 70, Brian, from Murton, takes part in ultra-marathons, kayaking and mountain biking to stay fit and healthy.

But he had a setback when he took a bowel cancer screening test earlier this year.

After taking a break from his usual gruelling training regime before Christmas, Brian was sent a test pack.

He did the test and sent it back but was surprised to find out that there were traces 
of blood in the sample he returned.

“It didn’t concern me too much as I convinced myself that it was due to saddle sores that I’m prone to suffer from because of all of the cycling that I do,” he said.

“After a second test again proved positive for blood, I was given an appointment for a colonoscopy, where a camera is used to determine if there is any cause for alarm on the wall of the large bowel.

“The doctor in charge pointed out to me on the monitor a bright red area.

“A biopsy was taken which proved that in fact it was cancer, which was verified at a later date when I had a scan.

“The results from my scan showed that the cancer had not spread and it’s impossible to describe how I felt at the news that it was operable and that I was going to survive.”

Brian then had an operation to remove the cancerous area of his large bowel at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

He is now on the mend and taking part in sporting events.

Figures show that over the past two years, almost half of those sent the kits did not provide a sample, therefore didn’t find out whether they have developed bowel cancer.

“The point of my story is simple, don’t throw away the bowel screening kits when you receive them through the post, for goodness sake,” added Brian.

“If I had not done the test, I would have continued with my life oblivious of my condition as I had no symptoms at all, and this would have gone on while the cancer grew and spread.

“By the time it was discovered, it is very likely that it would have been too late to operate.”

Mary Ritchie, lead specialist screening practitioner for South of Tyne Bowel Cancer Screening Centre, said: “We see lots of people who have not had any symptoms but have taken the time to complete the bowel cancer screening test kit and this has turned out to be a life-saver.

“Bowel cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer and screening is helping us identify it and treat it early.”

A MUM-OF-TWO has spoken of how her life has been turned around for the better after decades of pain with bowel problems.

Adele Burlinson, 36, of East Rainton, has suffered with the chronic condition since childhood.

Now she is able to lead a more normal life after having a pacemaker fitted to the base of her spine.

About a quarter of the UK’s adult population suffer regular symptoms related to functional gut disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and chronic indigestion.

Adele, who has had treatment at Durham’s Chronic Constipation Clinic, admits her lifestyle was “a nightmare” before the change, and added: “It was a fairly easy procedure and I feel so much better.

 “The pulses that it sends help to regulate my bowel and I was back at work in four weeks.

“I can now control my condition and my life via a remote- control device, which is just brilliant.”