Test could be a life-saver

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A Hartlepool man says he’s living proof that bowel cancer screening pays dividends – because it saved his life.

Dave Rhymer, 61, got the invitation to do a test exactly a year ago.

And instead of just ditching the advice, he booked up and discovered three polyps which would otherwise have gone undetected.

The fire protection engineer from the Rossmere area of town today admitted: “It was a shock to find out that a large polyp had been cancerous. If it had been left – or I hadn’t come for screening – the story would have been very different. I was told it could well have spread and it might even have been too late to do anything for me.”

Now Dave wants to spread an important message – Bin the test and you may be binning your life.

Dave’s own actions were spurred by him losing his own dad Cecil in 2002, aged 75.

Dave explained: “He had bowel cancer and he needed a colostomy bag.”

Cecil died from blood poisoning but Dave said his father’s experiences of living with bowel cancer were the spur he needed to take action himself.

Dave said: “I didn’t hesitate when the test came through. I sent mine off straightaway and within a couple of days I received a repeat test because the results of the first one weren’t clear.”

The second test showed a problem and Dave was asked to come to the endoscopy unit for a test called a flexible sigmoidoscopy where a tube with a camera is passed into the bowel.

“The worst part of the test was the bowel preparation,” said Dave. “You have to go without food for a day and take a strong laxative to clear the bowel so the doctors can get a clear view. However the test itself was fine. I wanted to drive home so I didn’t get sedated. The staff were absolutely marvellous and talked me through the whole thing. In fact I watched the procedure on the screen!”

Doctors found three polyps – growths– sticking up in the bowel. Two very tiny ones were burned off painlessly. The third measuring 12mm was cut off and brought out of Dave’s bowel.

Doctors then sent the polyp to the lab for testing. Dave was told the large polyp had been there for at least three years.

Dave admitted: “I was one of those people who thought ‘it’s cancer and cancer equals death.”

But the work done by the team at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust proved otherwise.

Dave added: “I was sent for a barium test and MRI scan just see if the cancer had spread.

“The best news I had was when the consultant told me it hadn’t spread and I was clear.”

He praised the health team for a thorough series of appointments and tests.

“I can’t fault the medical and nursing team at North Tees and Hartlepool especially consultant surgeon Mr Dharmendra Garg and consultant gastroenterologist Dr Krishna Bhattacharjee who have taken great care of me.”

Dave, who is granddad to 11-year-old Stephen Greig and 10-year-old Sara Greig, added: “I mentioned to a few friends what was happening and asked them if they’d had their bowel cancer screening test through the post. They said they had and they’d just binned it.

“I just answered ‘if you bin the test you may be binning your life’. That was enough to send my friends off to ask for another test pack and fortunately theirs have all come back clear.

“When I read in the paper that Teesside was the worst place in the country for bowel cancer I just thought how important it is for everyone to do the test. A few minutes to possibly save your life - it’s got to be worth it.”

How to spot the signs:

■ Blood in stools;

■ Persistent change in bowl movements;

■ Abdominal pain or discomfort;

■ Loss of weight and/or extreme tiredness;

■ Bowel blockage.

How to find out more:

■ Visit www.beatingbowelcancer.org/understanding-bowel-cancer

■ Call the helpline in 08450 719 301

■ Email nurse@beatingbowelcancer.org