A COUNCILLOR who has completed months of treatment for bowel cancer is calling for over-55s not to ignore their invitations for “life-saving” routine screening.

Speaking at his first Bournemouth council meeting since his last round of chemotherapy last month, Cllr Andrew Morgan urged people not to miss the opportunity for an early diagnosis of the disease.

Research published in the European Journal of Cancer earlier this month found that fewer than half of people eligible to be screened had accepted the invitation.

Cllr Morgan was invited to be screened at the end of last year and during the routine investigation a large polyp was discovered which turned out to be cancerous.

After the diagnosis in January, Cllr Morgan underwent a five-hour operation in April before three months of chemotherapy which finished in August.

“While everyone was enjoying a hot summer, I was suffering with hot feet as one of the side-effects of one of the pills I was taken.

“I don’t think you should underestimate how intense chemotherapy is and I’ve spent far too much time at Poole Hospital this year but it could have been much worse.”

After undergoing the “belt and braces” treatment to ensure the cancerous cells had gone, Cllr Morgan is expecting one last appointment with an oncologist at Poole Hospital next week before getting the all-clear.

He said that it was vital that people took up the opportunity to be screened and praised the care of staff who helped him through the treatment process.

“If I can get even just 10 people to go and get screened who might not have done so otherwise it would be a great achievement,” he added.

“About one in 14 men and one in 19 women are at risk of developing bowel cancer and the earlier it is discovered the easier it is to treat – screening literally saves lives.

“There’s nothing to be scared of, the screening is very straightforward and the staff at Poole Hospital are incredibly professional and caring.”

Earlier this year, the extended bowel cancer screening programme in Dorset was fully rolled-out with the age people are first invited to take a test lowered to 55.

Poole Hospital is the main hub for bowel cancer screening in the county with ‘satellite sites’ running at Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch, Dorset County, Wimborne’s Victoria and Swanage Community hospitals.

Tracey Deacy, Poole Hospital-based lead nurse for the Dorset Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, said that the key to treating bowel cancer was to diagnose it as soon as possible.

“Our main message is that bowel cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable, if spotted early,” she said.

“Research suggests that more than 90 per cent of bowel cancer patients will survive for more than five years if they are diagnosed at the earliest stage.

“That’s why taking up an invitation to a bowel cancer screening appointment is so important – it can literally save lives.”

Bowel cancer is responsible for the deaths of more than 16,000 people every year and the form of the disease is the second most common despite being more treatable.

Last month, it was announced that the screening age would be lowered to 50 in England and Wales using a newer, more accurate screening test.

Deborah Alsina MBE, Bowel Cancer UK chief executive, said: “It’s quite simple, bowel cancer screening saves lives.

“I would encourage everyone who’s over 60 to take the test, and for those who are younger to encourage their loved ones over 60 to complete it.

“It could save yours or your loved one’s life.”