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“Be like me, catch it early”

11 January 2023

Story from bowel screening local champion Paul Blears.

“Be like me, catch it early”
Paul Blears.

At 72 years old, Tauranga local Paul Blears is fit and healthy. He exercises regularly, has never smoked or drunk excessively, and eats a balanced diet. Whilst he’s never had any critical health concerns, when the retired dentist received his FIT test in the mail from the National Bowel Screening Programme, he knew it was something he shouldn’t delay.

Two days after completing and posting his test, Paul received a call from his GP to say that he had tested positive. A positive test meant there were microscopic traces of blood in his stool sample. A positive result does not always mean cancer is present, but further investigation via colonoscopy is strongly recommended.

During the colonoscopy, seven polyps were found, with one being 20mm. Results from additional tests came back 14 days later, confirming that Paul had adenocarcinoma (bowel cancer). The “c-word” is often scary and comes with a lot of unknowns, but doctors were optimistic the cancer was contained within the muscle wall and had not spread to his lymph nodes.

Within the week, Paul had surgery which removed a section of his bowel via keyhole and thankfully, this was a success. From his initial colonoscopy to his surgery, 4 weeks had passed, and Paul is officially cancer-free without the need for radiation or chemotherapy.

Paul’s advice to others is simple – do the test when it arrives in the mail. Why delay? It’s easy to do at home and it could save your life. The National Bowel Screening Programme is there for a reason, so make the most of the initiative.

“I have the rest of my life to look forward to now,” says Paul. “If doing the FIT test means you avoid the ravages of cancer and everything that comes with it, for goodness sake, just do the test.”

“Be like me, catch it early.”