A BOWEL cancer sufferer is urging people to use their free testing kit after the simple check gave her a shocking result.
Avril Halstead, 64, had no idea she had a cancerous growth, when a screening pack came through her letterbox.
But the healthy Holmfirth grandmother thought she had nothing to lose by taking the test – which is being sent out to homes in Huddersfield as part of an NHS scheme.
The kits are being delivered to people aged 60 to 69 to help detect the early signs of bowel cancer.
The disease is the second biggest cause of UK cancer deaths, killing 16,000 people each year.
But Avril, a keen walker and swimmer, thought she had nothing to worry about.
And she was amazed when she received her shock result just five days later.
The former estate agent negotiator said: “I was in two minds about doing the test because I had no symptoms whatsoever.
“But I thought if someone had taken the trouble to send me the kit, I might as well do it. It was a good job I did.”
The test unveiled abnormalities in Avril’s bowel and the married mum-of-two was sent for a colonoscopy – a camera inserted into her bowel – at Calderdale Royal Hospital.
This showed she had a cancerous polyp. But luckily her doctor could remove the cancer during the procedure.
She was then given a CT scan to check the disease had not spread – which was clear. But Avril must now return once a year for check-ups.
She added: “When they said it was cancerous I was worried but I knew it had gone.
“My nurse told me if I hadn't done the test I would have been having symptoms in 12 months and who knows what would have happened then?
“I was very lucky. I had no symptoms at all. People should really do the test, how ever healthy they feel. It is worth it.”
The NHS bowel cancer screening programme was launched in April this year.
Kits are sent out and samples of faeces returned in a hygienically sealed pre-paid envelope. The samples are then sent to a laboratory in Gateshead and the results returned in about two weeks.
A normal result means no further tests are needed. Those with unclear results are tested again.
People with abnormal results – where blood is found in the sample – are sent for other tests.
Kathryn Aldous, bowel centre screening manager at Calderdale Royal Hospital, said: “Avril had no symptoms and was fit and healthy and like many, considered not bothering with the test.
“This is the reason for the bowel cancer screening programme. “It aims to reduce death from bowel cancer. It just goes to show however that you cannot tell and it is much better to do the kit and get checked out.”
The aim is to ensure everyone eligible is invited for screening by December 2009. Those aged over 70 can also self-refer by calling 0800 7076060. Contact the screening centre on 01422 222913.