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Mary praises Bowelscreen for early stage diagnosis

 Mary Kennedy in a garden. She is wearing apink shirt and sunglasses and is using a secateurs to trim a plant.

Mary Kennedy, from Castleknock, Dublin, was 61 when she did her first BowelScreen test. Even though she was told she had cancer after her screening, she feels lucky because it was found at an early stage, when her treatment was easier. Mary says she’s incredibly thankful that BowelScreen is available to people aged 59 to 69 and wants everyone to know about it.

“I’d heard about BowelScreen from radio adverts and from friends. When the letter arrived inviting me to take part I didn’t hesitate. BowelScreen is free and is another way I can look after my health.”

After getting her invitation letter, Mary gave her consent to take part and was sent a FIT kit in a plain envelope. The FIT, or faecal immunochemical test, looks for blood in the person’s poo, and if it’s found they are invited for further tests. The kit contains step-by-step instructions which guided Mary on how to use it.

Mary explains that “the FIT kit instructions were clear and easy to follow. Less than two weeks after I’d posted my sample back, I got a letter from BowelScreen. It told me that traces of blood not visible to the eye had been found and a nurse would ring me to arrange a further test called a colonoscopy.”

About a month later Mary had her colonoscopy - where a thin, flexible tube with a small camera at the end, is used to look at the inside of the bowel. Samples taken during the colonoscopy were tested and showed that Mary had cancer. “To hear that I had cancer was a real shock to me - it was a lot to take in. I had absolutely no symptoms. I was walking and swimming as usual. I was enjoying life and my retirement. I wasn’t losing weight or tired and I didn’t see blood when I went to the toilet. It took me a while to be able to say the cancer word. It was such a whirlwind that I didn’t tell people until just before my surgery.

“After further tests, I met with my consultant who explained the diagnosis and what surgery would involve. There was support at every stage from the BowelScreen team.

“I then had keyhole surgery to remove the cancer. I was sore for about 6 weeks afterwards which is to be expected. I was relieved when I got the all-clear about three and a half months after I had first taken the BowelScreen test. I will be called back every year for a colonoscopy to make sure everything is fine, which is reassuring.”

Now that Mary has had time to reflect on her experience, she is keen to encourage everyone aged 59-69 to choose screening:

“Even though I had cancer I feel so lucky. I’m so glad I chose to take the BowelScreen test, and my cancer was discovered early. I had a good experience with the whole programme. If I hadn’t taken part in screening the cancer might have been found at a much more advanced stage when the treatment would be more difficult.”

Mary concludes: “That’s why I want to shout it from the rooftops and tell everyone to do it, because it is so worth it.”

Find further information on BowelScreen