ADRIAN Hampshire says this bag has saved his life and could save the lives of hundreds of others.

The 62-year-old believes he is alive and well today all thanks to a simple bowel cancer screening kit which health bosses say are being ignored by thousands of people across Oxfordshire.

Despite NHS officials sending out 30,468 of the free bowel cancer screening kits to Oxfordshire residents since last April, only 18,922 have been returned.

Free kits are sent out to anyone aged between 60 and 75 in Oxfordshire every two years and can be completed at home.

Each year about 350 new cases are diagnosed in Oxfordshire and 150 people die of the disease, despite a 90 per cent success rate if detected early.

After ignoring the test at first, Mr Hampshire, from Beckley, completed it after receiving a reminder.

The systems software manager said: “It’s the kind of thing which just comes up on you and before you know it your life is a mess and it happens so quickly.

“I have to say I didn’t take much notice of the test at first, I guess like most people you naturally tend to find something like that a bit distasteful, but then I got a reminder.

“It happened so fast. They told me they had found something, I was in, I had an operation and they removed a section of my insides.”

He said he was fighting fit again in a matter of weeks and couldn’t believe how quickly he had recovered.

He said: “Some people may think of it as embarrassing, but it saved my life.”

And the widow of former Bee Gee Robin Gibb, Dwina Gibb, has urged people to act to avoid the kind of traumatic heartbreak she and her family experienced.

Superstar Gibb, who lived in Thame, died aged 62 from kidney failure in May last year after fighting advanced bowel cancer which he was diagnosed with the previous month.

Mrs Gibb told the Oxford Mail: “I think it is so important to have any kind of early testing. Any kind of early testing is essential to find something is wrong.

“Robin didn’t know how ill he was and then one day he was in agonising pain. We went to the doctors to see, he had the symptoms but didn’t follow it up.

“I think it’s also important to check your family history for this kind of thing. Act early and get yourself checked out.”

Health experts have made a renewed drive for people to take up the test as they are worried large numbers of people are living with the disease undetected.

David Munday, Oxfordshire University Hospitals NHS Trust’s lead nurse for bowel cancer screening, said he was concerned about the low take up rate of the test.

He said: “We know that completing this free and simple test at home reduces the chances of dying from the disease.”

Trust spokesman Richard Maynard said home test kit take-up numbers were totalled by each financial year, and officials were making the plea to drive up the number before the end of April as it was concerned over falling figures.

The Trust did not have numbers for previous years at time of going to press.

The routine test sent out in Oxfordshire is known as a faecal occult blood test and does not diagnose bowel cancer but will identify any possible blood in the faeces.

A positive test will trigger an invitation to see the screening nurses and have an investigation to find out what is causing the bleeding.

The national screening programme was introduced in 2006 to reduce the rate of people dying from bowel cancer by diagnosing it earlier.

How the test works

THE Oxfordshire Bowel Cancer Screening Centre operates across two sites, the Horton General Hospital in Banbury and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Patients aged between 60 and 75 are sent a kit in the post every two years, to use at home in private.
The test involves collecting a small sample of faeces, which is sealed in a special hygienic envelope and sent for analysis in a laboratory.
The laboratory can find traces of blood in the faeces that may not be visible to the naked eye.
The 'faecal occult blood' test is not a definitive test for actual cancer, but the results may suggest that further investigation is needed.


Bowel cancer symptoms

THE symptoms of bowel cancer relate mainly to blood in stools.
They can include bleeding from the rectum or a change in normal bowel habits to diarrhoea or looser stools, lasting longer than six weeks
Symptoms can also include a lump that a doctor can feel in your back passage or abdomen, or a feeling of needing to strain in your back passage.
Other symptoms include losing weight, and because bowel tumours can bleed, cancer of the bowel often causes a shortage of red blood cells.
This is called anaemia and may cause tiredness and sometimes breathlessness.
Sometimes cancer can cause a bowel obstruction.