WHEN Chris Gallaher received an NHS bowel cancer testing kit in the post he almost threw it away.
But he is now thankful that Sandy, his wife of 32 years, urged him use it, as it led medics to diagnose the disease early and safely remove a tumour.
Now the retired Bupa director, 74, is urging men aged 60 to 75 – who should all be sent a kit – not to be embarrassed and to return a stool sample.
Last year, 41,092 kits were sent out in Oxfordshire, but only 25,769 – 63 per cent – were returned.
The Eynsham resident said: “I was about to bin it and my wife said it was a minor procedure.
“I wasn’t very happy about the whole thing. I didn’t like the idea of sending poo through the post. I had no adverse feelings of being unwell. But she said ‘it will be all right, it will come back negative’. In hindsight it was a very good thing I did send it off.”
Mrs Gallaher, 67, said: “I just felt that the value of knowing whether you are clear or not of cancer is vital. I felt there was no harm in doing the test and it might save your life, which in this case it did.”
The test – sent to over 60s every two years – does not diagnose the disease, but finds possible blood in faeces.
Mr Gallaher returned it in September and got a letter about two weeks later saying the result was abnormal and inviting him to Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.
He had a colonoscopy, leading to an operation to remove the tumour in October.
The Mill Street resident, a grandfather of six, said: “It was spotted very early.
“Unbeknownst to me, one’s colon has four layers of tissue and this tumour had gone through three, but not outside the colon by the time they took it out. It was lucky it hadn’t had the opportunity to spread to other major organs.”
Medics told him it could have taken up to six months before he noticed anything wrong with his bowels.
He added: “I was due to go on holiday to the Gambia for Christmas. Had that happened in the Gambia I wouldn’t like to have guessed what had happened. I would recommend anybody who is sent the test to send it off and see what happens. Surprisingly, a number of friends have told me they have it in a drawer and have not sent it off.”
Mr Gallaher said he has been given the all-clear but will need check-ups.
April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust has urged people to return the tests.
Lead bowel cancer nurse David Munday said: “Our concern at the moment is that only half of the people we invite to do the test at home actually complete and return it. We know that completing this free and simple test reduces the chances of dying from the disease and in many cases, by identifying pre- cancerous polyps, can prevent the disease from developing in the first place.”