Left to right - Clive with Mark Menzies MP and fellow Campaigns Ambassador Alexander Whittam
In the first in a series of guest posts from our Cancer Campaigns Ambassadors, Clive Barley shares his personal story and why he campaigns for the Government to improve early diagnosis of cancer.
In November 2003 I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. When I was first told, I just went numb from head to toe; cancer happens to other people not me. Luckily the cancer was diagnosed in the early stages and I am so grateful to my wife Linda, who persuaded me to see my GP after I told her about seeing blood in my stools.
Early diagnosis resulted in my cancer experience being a positive one.
That’s why now, in my role as a volunteer Cancer Research UK Campaigns Ambassador, I am campaigning for the Government to improve early diagnosis for all cancer patients.
The UK needs to up its game
At the age of 66 I enjoy an active lifestyle; spending more time with my family, especially our five grandchildren; running for charity to help raise important funds and volunteering for three organisations I am so passionate about, including Cancer Research UK.
On the 2nd July, along with over 100 Cancer Research UK Campaign Ambassadors, I took part in Cancer Research UK’s Parliament Day during which I had the privilege of meeting my MP, and sharing my cancer story and information about why early diagnosis is so important.
Survival rates in the UK, while improved over recent years, still lag behind those of other comparable countries. My key message to my MP was that the UK needs to become better at diagnosing cancer earlier to help improve patient survival so that many more people can be as fortunate as me.
One in ten
I believe my personal experience shows that when cancer is diagnosed earlier, there are often more treatment options available, and the chances of recovery are so much greater. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK with over 41,000 people being diagnosed each year. When it’s diagnosed early, more than nine in 10 people survive at least five years. But fewer than one in 10 people with bowel cancer are diagnosed at the earliest stage.
Raising awareness of the signs and symptoms, and encouraging people to seek help promptly is, in my opinion, key to improving early diagnosis. I share my cancer story to help encourage people to visit their GP if they have health concerns and not leave it until it may be too late.
But the Government also has an important role to play – funding for campaigns such as “Be Clear on Cancer” is essential to help more people survive cancer and, like me, have a positive outcome.
I also believe the Government needs to encourage local areas to increase the number of people taking part in bowel screening. If people are offered screening, such as the bowel cancer screening test, known as faecal occult blood testing (FOBT) (although personally I call it the ‘poo stick post package (PSPP)’) it might save their life.
In some parts of the UK, the number of people completing the screening test is less than 50 per cent, so we do need to do more to encourage people to take part in bowel screening, and to provide good quality information on risks and benefits that helps people make an informed decision.
That way, even more people will be able to share a positive experience like mine.