Teesside bowel cancer nurse diagnosed with disease she treats urges people to get screening tests

Barbara Campbell works as a bowel cancer nurse at the University Hospital of North Tees and was shocked to discover she had the illness herself. Credit: North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

A woman from Teesside is urging people to attend regular bowel screening tests after she was diagnosed with bowel cancer unexpectedly; despite having worked in the bowel department herself.

Barbara Campbell has spent over 10 years working with people who have bowel cancer at the University Hospital of North Tees in the screening department, and now works as a clinical research nurse investigating the early signs of cancer.

She never thought she would be a patient herself, but last year, Barbara from Stockton on Tees, completed a routine bowel screening test even though she had no symptoms of cancer, and was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer.

The 63-year-old said “I was invited for a colonoscopy at North Tees and I wasn’t particularly worried.

"I expected to get a bit of a lecture about eating my five a day, cutting down on drinking and taking better care of myself... instead they found quite a large cancer.”

In England bowel cancer is the second most common killer but can be treated if diagnosed early.

On 16 March last year, Barbara underwent surgery to remove the tumour and a portion of the bowel, which was followed by six months of chemotherapy at the hospital where she works.

Barbara said: “I didn’t think it would happen to me. Even though I know the odds, I seriously thought it was something that would happen to other people."

"Please do your poo test - the earlier you catch bowel cancer, the earlier your treatment can start and the better your chances of survival are.”

A Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) can be done at home and can successfully detect bowel cancer and growths Credit: North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

People between the ages of 60-75 years old are invited to take part in routine bowel screenings which involve completing a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) every two years at home.

A small sample of faeces is needed which is sent to a lab and checked for tiny amounts of blood, as blood can be a sign of cancer or of growths that may become malignant.

Last year, Tees Screening Centre received 72,759 completed kits. 1,632 of these showed blood in the sample, resulting in 97 bowel cancer diagnoses.

For more information about bowel screening, please call the Tees Screening Centre Helpline on 01642 383981 or 0800 0151 506.