A focus on bowel cancer

From left to right: Colm Hennessy, lead cancer nurse Jan Harley, lung nurse specialist Tessa Fitzpatrick, colorectal nurse specialist Norma Robinson and consultant colorectal surgeon Mohamed Tabaqchali outside Hartlepool civic centre
From left to right: Colm Hennessy, lead cancer nurse Jan Harley, lung nurse specialist Tessa Fitzpatrick, colorectal nurse specialist Norma Robinson and consultant colorectal surgeon Mohamed Tabaqchali outside Hartlepool civic centre

THE facts speak for themselves.

Anyone who allows a cancer to go undetected and untreated stands less chance of survival.

But there’s good news for anyone in Hartlepool connected to bowel cancer.

Doctors and nurses at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust are giving their support to the government’s bowel screening awareness campaign which is called Be Clear On Cancer.

It was launched at the end of January and the timing couldn’t have been better for experts in Hartlepool.

Just one week earlier, consultant colorectal surgeon Mr Mohamed Tabaqchali, along with breast surgeon Colm Hennessy, lung physician Neil Leitch and specialist nurses Jan Harley, Norma Robinson and Tessa Fitzpatrick, were invited to the Hartlepool health overview and scrutiny forum to talk about cancer.

Their invitation came at a time when chances of survival or recovery for people living in Hartlepool were some of the lowest in the region.

The forum wanted to hear from the experts what if anything could be done about it.

In a number of powerful presentations the doctors and nurses stressed the importance of early diagnosis and increased awareness of symptoms and how this can lead to better outcomes and more effective treatments .

Mr Tabaqchali said: “The longer you leave cancer to develop, the more difficult it is to treat.

“But this means the earlier you do something the better chance you have of survival and a good recovery. My colleagues and I were pleased to be invited by the forum to talk about cancer and we are passionate about improving the chances of people living in Hartlepool and the surrounding areas in tackling the disease.

“The main signs to look for in bowel cancer is having loose poo for more than three weeks or blood in your poo. It’s vital not to ignore these signs. People can also help themselves by cutting down on smoking and drinking as well as making sure they have plenty of fibre in their diet.”

Consultant physician Dr Matt Rutter is also the lead clinician for the bowel cancer screening programme for the whole of Teesside and parts of North Yorkshire and County Durham.

People who use the home bowel screening packs – and these are sent to all people over the age of 60 – are referred to Dr Rutter’s team if their results show any signs of blood in the poo. The trust is one of three centres in the country to pilot a simple five minute check of the lower bowel of people aged 55 to check for signs of cancer. The test – called flexible sigmoidoscopy – involves passing a camera into the bottom to have a look at the bowel. It is carried out either by a doctor or a specially trained nurse.

Dr Rutter said: “Cancer is developing in your bowel long before you have any warning signs but screening can pick these problems up. We see all the people in this area whose screening tests have tiny specks of blood in them.

“Many of these will turn out to be nothing and so we can reassure people of that. In some patients we find polyps in the bowel and, if we remove them, we can prevent the cancer developing at all.

“It’s vital not to ignore the warning signs of bowel cancer but more important, if you’re offered bowel screening, take advantage of the test. It’s free and the tests available at the moment are carried out in the privacy of your own home. A couple of minutes of your time now can save a great deal of misery later. Screening saves lives.”

You can see an interview with Dr Rutter talking about the early signs of bowel and the importance of bowel screening at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=295184273871558&set=vb.143318082359133&type=2&theater