I used to imagine that turning 60 enabled you to access all sorts of discounted stuff on account of your senior citizen status.
Apart from free prescriptions, there’s nothing much I’ve been able to save so far. That’s partly because there isn’t a lot and partly because Covid has closed some of the travel and hospitality businesses that did offer discounts.
You can imagine my delight then when the NHS promptly sprang into life to offer me my first bowel cancer screening – all for nothing. It’s something they do every two years to everyone aged 60 to 74.
I have to say this begs the question why this stops at 74 but I guess I should be grateful that I’ll have seven of these tests to carry out if I am lucky enough to get to that age.
I remember my parents giggling about this kit and the fact they were being asked to send their poo in the post. Now it’s my turn and I’m glad.
Bowel cancer is very common, about 1 in 20 people will get it during their lifetime. Screening helps detect bowel cancer at an early stage, when it’s easier to treat. It can also be used to help check for and remove small growths in the bowel called polyps that can develop into cancer over time.
Not long after I turned 55 I had a bowel scope screening – a test where a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end is used to look for and remove any polyps inside your bowel.
Now it’s my turn for the home test kit screening. The kit arrived in a cool letter-box sized package with very clear instructions on how you to use it with a sample bottle, poo scraper and rather impressive squeezable cardboard addressed envelope that gets sent to the lab.
There is also a useful leaflet featuring a diverse group of happy older people on the front. All of us are at risk of getting bowel cancer as we get older (with 8 out of 10 of those diagnosed being over 60). Everything is explained in graphic detail in a clear, jargon-free video you can access on the NHS website (see main image above).
Apart from age, which you can do little about, risk factors include:
- Being overweight
- Too much alcohol
- Too much processed meat
- Type 2 Diabetes
About two in every hundred people who complete the test need further tests because there is too much blood in their poo.
Although I’ve been putting off using the kit, I will get round to it and was quite pleased that, during Covid, this screening programme is still going on.