Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: 'I wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for that test'

A man from Dumfries and Galloway who says he owes his life to a routine cancer screening is urging everyone eligible to take up the offer.

Eleven years ago John Withers heard the words no-one wants to hear from a doctor. He had bowel cancer.

In the UK, someone is diagnosed with the disease every 15 minutes and a person dies from every half hour. 

Bowel cancer is our second deadliest cancer but is treatable and curable if caught early enough. The disease is more common in the over 50s but affects people of all ages. 

John Withers, Cancer survivor. Credit: ITV News

Speaking to ITV Border, John said: "There's something about the word 'cancer' of what it conjures up.

"Now, I think we've made progress, particularly in bowel cancer because if it's detected at a very early stage then it's a very treatable disease and you can live a full life - as I am."

John says he owes his life to routine screening and wants everyone eligible to take up the test when asked.

John was diagnosed with bowel cancer ten years ago. Credit: ITV News

He said: "I do think there is general reluctance for men to do the test. The new test is a simple little stick and you only have to do this test once - it's simple, it's quick, and easy."

As soon as his recovery was underway he just wanted to give something back to the healthcare system

He went on to volunteer and now tours the country, sharing a simple message with thousands of people.

"Please, please take the test," John pleads. "It can save your life and it certainly saved mine. I wouldn't be sitting here today speaking to anybody if it hadn't been for that test."

Symptoms of bowel cancer

  • Blood coming from your bottom or in your stools

  • Obvious change in bowel habit

  • Weight loss you can't explain

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Lump and/or pain in your tummy

Amy Lea spoke with Genevieve Edwards from Bowel Cancer UK about the importance of routine testing.

Sources of information about bowel cancer