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Expanded endoscopy unit will ‘save lives’

Posted: 28 April 2017
Kate Ewer, Communications and Engagement Manager

Former Watford Observer journalist Simon Ricketts, who was treated for bowel cancer at Watford General Hospital last year, has lent his support to the endoscopy team during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month as they alerted the public to the need for screening.

Picture of Former Watford Observer journalist Simon RickettsUnfortunately Simon had no warning that he had cancer. “I ended up crawling into A&E at Watford after the Easter weekend last year with what I thought was irritable bowel syndrome,” he said. Within a day, he had been operated on to remove cancer from his colon and spent two weeks in hospital recovering. Now on his seventh cycle of chemotherapy, Simon’s cancer has spread and he has a terminal diagnosis. “Be aware of the symptoms and get help as soon as you can. It's too late for me, but it's not too late for thousands out there who can get an early diagnosis.”

Specialist screening practitioners from the bowel cancer screening team at West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust talked with the public and staff at Watford and Hemel hospitals about early detection and prevention and how crucial this is for successful treatment and survival rates.

The trust has expanded its endoscopy unit at Watford Hospital to accommodate the roll out of the bowel scope screening programme for West Hertfordshire. The service offers people from the age of 55 a one-off test using a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera to remove small growths called polyps from the large bowel. The unit runs this programme in addition to bowel cancer screening which provides people aged between 60 and 74 with a home testing kit to identify traces of blood in the stool. “The new unit at Watford is very impressive and will undoubtedly save lives,” said Simon. “That's something anyone could get behind.”

Clinical lead for bowel cancer screening programme Dr Bruce Macfarlane said: “The unit currently has the highest polyp detection rate in the East of England. Nothing is as effective for prevention as bowel cancer screening and we hope to achieve full roll out of the programme to the population of West Herts by October. One day this may reduce the 20 percent of people, like Simon, who discover as an emergency that they have bowel cancer.”

What to look out for:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A change in bowel habit lasting three weeks or more
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

Find out more at www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk