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"Screening is the reason I’m here today”: Leeds woman urges people to take part in screening after being diagnosed with bowel cancer

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Emma Jacob


A Leeds woman is urging people to take part in bowel screening after recent analysis by Yorkshire Cancer Research shows a quarter of eligible people in Yorkshire do not complete the test.

Diane Cristy-Lewis, 73, from Roundhay in Leeds, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2021 after it was detected through routine screening, despite having no symptoms.

Diane is helping to raise awareness of bowel screening by showing support for Yorkshire Cancer Research. The independent charity funds vital screening programmes and research trials to detect cancer earlier and find the most effective ways to encourage participation in screening.

It is my quest in life to make sure that everyone I speak to understands how important bowel screening is. It’s the reason I am here today."

In Yorkshire, a quarter of eligible people do not complete the test, meaning they are missing out on this potentially life-saving test which can detect bowel cancer at an early stage.

Currently, less than half (47%) of bowel cancers in Yorkshire are diagnosed at an early stage. Increasing the number of people taking part in bowel screening could help improve the number of cancers diagnosed at an early stage, when more treatment options are available and there is a better chance of the cancer being successfully treated.

Diane continued: “Cancer always feels like something that happens to other people, and that it’ll never happen to you, so when I was told I had bowel cancer it was a real shock.

“I had no symptoms and wouldn’t have had any idea that I had bowel cancer if it wasn’t for screening. Thanks to this, my cancer was diagnosed early, and the treatment was well planned, which meant that the cancer could be successfully treated.”

Diane had chemotherapy and surgery to treat her cancer. She was also given a temporary colostomy, which is when an opening from the large bowel is made in the stomach and a bag is placed over the opening to collect waste. This is usually reversed after the bowel has had chance to fully heal.

She said: "I’m now over two years on from being diagnosed and I am exactly the same as I was pre-diagnosis. I’m back walking, doing yoga, and just loving life.”

Diane and her husband out walking Diane looking out of a window and holding a mug

People between the ages of 60 and 74 are currently invited for bowel screening every two years, but the NHS is working to expand the programme to also include those aged 50 to 59.

Bowel screening involves a home test kit, called a faecal immunochemical test (FIT), which is used to collect a small sample of poo. This is then sent to a lab to be checked for tiny amounts of blood, which could be a sign of bowel cancer. If blood is found in the sample, the person will be invited for further tests.

Screening can also detect small growths on the lining of the intestine, called ‘polyps’. These are usually harmless but in a small number of cases they can lead to cancer if left untreated. Taking part in bowel screening means that these growths can be found and removed before they have chance to develop into cancer.

Without bowel screening most people, like me, wouldn’t have any idea that they had bowel cancer. The test is so straightforward and easy to do. I would say to anyone who has the test kit in their bathroom and hasn’t yet completed it, ‘do it now, please’.”

The mum-of-two has now turned her attention to supporting Yorkshire Cancer Research and chose to leave a gift in her will to the charity.

She said: “Cancer has touched not only myself, but also my son and daughter, so it was really important to me to support Yorkshire Cancer Research. I hope that by leaving a gift in my Will, the legacy of my donation will help someone who is going through the same thing that me and my family experienced.”

Yorkshire Cancer Research funds pioneering research to help encourage people to attend their screening, find new ways of treating bowel cancer and improve existing treatments for people who have been diagnosed.

In Leeds, the international ‘FOxTROT’ trial is exploring whether treatment for bowel cancer can be improved.

The trial, led by researchers at the University of Leeds and the University of Birmingham and funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, is exploring whether giving people with bowel cancer chemotherapy before surgery can help improve survival rates. The findings could inform a new ‘gold-standard’ of bowel cancer treatment and help save lives across the region.