‘I feel extremely lucky, the bowel cancer testing kit saved my life’

It’s Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and north east London patient Roger Shepherd has shared how a home testing kit saved his life.

Millions of people are sent bowel screening home testing kits by the NHS. The test is simple to do and you do it in the privacy of your own home. It is really important to complete it and send it back. In most cases, nothing is found, and everything is fine. However if we do find something, an early diagnosis could increase survival chances by up to nine times.

Roger, 58, an IT project manager from Havering, said: “The test was very straightforward. It’s so simple to complete in your own home.

“I received my results within two weeks and in my letter, it stated they’d found something. At this point I became very anxious, I started thinking the worst, googling lots of different things

“The letter was reassuring in terms of next steps; it also included some stats which helped put my mind at ease a bit.”

In the next few days, Roger was contacted by the screening team who offered him an appointment to discuss a further colonoscopy test.

He added: “During my appointments, the staff were very caring and also realistic. They managed my expectations throughout the entire process.”

During his colonoscopy procedure, a cancerous polyp was detected and successfully removed. Roger is now being closely monitored for an indefinite period following his procedure.

Describing his overall experience, he said: “It’s been a really positive experience, obviously a bit scary and worrying, but I feel extremely lucky.

“I felt healthy, I didn’t think there was anything wrong and if I didn’t participate in this, who knows? I would have probably been in pretty bad shape in a few years.

“The staff, from the admin to the consultants, were so supportive and responsive throughout.

“I’d encourage people to do the test. For the sake of a few minutes, it’s definitely worthwhile.”

NHS bowel screening checks are free and are currently available to everyone aged 54 to 74 years. The programme is expanding next year to everyone aged 52 to 74 and then to 50 to 74 the year after. If you're 75 or over, you can ask for a kit every 2 years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.

For more information on the bowel test kit, watch our short video and share it with friends, family and colleagues: https://youtu.be/53PObqeNtPk

This is available in 15 different languages: https://www.nelcanceralliance.nhs.uk/resources/videos/bowel-screening-patients