Endoscopy saved my life says former Everton footballer

North West Cancer Research asks people to ‘remember when…’ to boost early bowel cancer detection rates
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The Walkman and a Chopper bike were staples of growing up in the 60s and 70s, and now, they are part of a rallying call to help save lives with a new campaign from North West Cancer Research.

'Remember when.'. encourages people to complete and return their home bowel cancer screening kits to help catch signs of the disease early, by using nostalgia.

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Among those supporting the initiative is ex-Everton and Republic of Ireland footballer Kevin Sheedy, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer aged 52. The former midfielder finished treatment five years ago and is passionate about raising awareness.

Kevin told LiverpoolWorld: "My mother passed away through bowel cancer. They said it was irritable bowel syndrome, and by the time they found out, it was too late. My father had bowel cancer but successfully survived, so it's always been in the family. It was about 12 years ago that I was going to the toilet more often than usual.

"My wife commented I was costing us a fortune in loo rolls and then I was seeing there was blood in my poo, so immediately went to my GP. I had my blood tested and a stool sample tested. Everything came back clear, but the GP said he was going to send me for an endoscopy just to rule things out and that turned out to save my life."

The campaign shines a spotlight on bowel cancer as the North West's second biggest cause of cancer deaths, according to the latest data, and urges people to look out for their kit when it arrives and to be aware of bowel cancer symptoms.

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In England, everyone aged 54 to 74 years old registered with a GP is automatically sent a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) every two years. Individuals use the kit to collect a small sample of poo and send it back to a lab to test for signs of cancer. The programme is gradually expanding so that those aged 50 to 53 will also be eligible for screening.

However, North West data shows that around a third of eligible people across the region did not return their test kits in 2022/23, with just 66.5% of people aged 60 to 74 years old sending their tests back.

Now, North West Cancer Research is hoping to change this trend through a nostalgia-driven campaign, telling people that if they can remember owning a Walkman or longing for the iconic chopper bike, for example, then it could be time to complete their bowel cancer screening kit.

Across the North West, bowel cancer rates are 5% higher than the rest of the country. As a whole, rates of cancer in the North West are 25% higher than the rest of England. North West Cancer Research funds projects that aim to reduce such inequalities by tackling the cause, improving care, and finding cures for cancer.