QE bowel screening saving lives

Posted on Wed, 09/07/2014

Brian Stephens

Man urges others to complete bowel screening tests after it saves his life   

QE Gateshead is saving lives with their bowel screening program, which has been running since 2007.

The South of Tyne bowel screening centre is a collaboration between QE Gateshead, South Tyneside and City Hospitals Sunderland foundation trusts, and through their GP, invites all people aged 60-74 to complete a screening kit at home.

One man who knows all too well the value of completing a testing kit, is 70-year-old extreme sports nut, Brian Stephens from Murton. Brian who takes part in ultra-marathons, kayaking, and mountain biking to stay young, completed a test kit in March this year, and credits it with being alive and well today. 

Brian said: “2014 started well, I had taken a month off training prior to Xmas so most of my sports injuries were healed and I was doing a six day week training schedule alternating between swimming cycling and running.

Life continued as normal until the beginning of March when I received a bowel screening kit. I didn’t think anything of it as I had taken part in the programme in the past, so I was surprised when the hospital contacted me and explained that there had been microscopic amounts of blood found in the stool sample that I had returned. This 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.”

“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.  Sad to say there was cause for alarm. 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.”

“An appointment was made for the 28th of March for me to have an operation to remove the cancerous area of my large bowel. I went into hospital on the Sunday afternoon and had the operation on the Monday morning, it was a complete success and although it wasn’t the most fun week that I have ever spent, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital staff were wonderful and I have nothing but praise for everyone involved with my care.” 

“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. 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.”

“Sadly ignoring the screen testing is not rare, I’ve talked to a number of men who tell me that they just threw them away. I think they are playing Russian roulette with their lives, maybe they should think of the pain and suffering that their death would cause to their loved ones. Now I’m recovering from my operation, I’m going to concentrate on getting better and looking forward to next year because thanks to the screening I will be around.”

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


Additional information about our screening programme:

Number of people invited for screening:
2012 – 55779 for SOTBCSP
2013 – 52675 for SOTBCSP


What is the % of people who don’t bother doing it?
Uptake was 57% - 2012 and 56% 2013 therefore 43% and 44% did not complete their screening kits


What areas geographically are we responsible for?

The South of Tyne Bowel Cancer screening Programme is responsible for Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and some of Easington (Seaham, Murton)
The North East bowel cancer screening hub based at the QE, are responsible for the North East area from Berwick through to Hull

Call us on 0191 482 0000

In emergencies dial 999 / Non-emergencies dial 111

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