Bowel cancer screening is something that the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK offer free for anyone when they turn 60, which I did in October, and they do this using a screening kit that you prepare at home and then send back to them in the post.
It sounds very easy to complete the test, which consists of taking 2 smears from 3 separate bowel movements, and spreading these on small squares on the kit, which are hidden/protected under a flap.
In reality though, preparing the test results is not quite so easy.
WARNING – DON’T READ ON IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY DISCUSSIONS RELATED TO POOP AND GOING #2!
First of all, the kit includes 6 cardboard sticks, 1 for each of the 6 windows, so 2 separate samples per bowel movement. Each cardboard stick must only be used once, and the samples taken from a different area of the poop.
Now, you can’t allow the poop to become contaminated, for example by letting it drop into the toilet and then “fishing” it out. They recommend either using toilet paper to catch it in, or a plastic container.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t fancy the idea of doing number two into a plastic tub, so I opted for using toilet paper instead.
The first problem is of course that you have to have the kit handy for when you need to go, and of course you have to remember to take it with you into the bathroom. Now I wasn’t going to try and do this at work, so I had to time my bodily functions for either first thing in the morning or in the evening. As you probably know only too well, place any constraints like that on your body and it invariably doesn’t want to co-operate, so it was a bit of a stressful process that took 4 days, but in the end I did manage to get the samples.
Back to the task of catching the poo though, and if you have ever attempted to catch this on sheets of toilet paper, there is a certain stress involved, in case your hand is in the wrong place or you excrete a massive turd and it just overflows the paper.
There is a third posibility of course, and that’s finding that your poop is soft, sludgy or even just liquid. It doesn’t bare thinking about, but fortunately I didn’t suffer from any of the above and caught smaller samples than I imagined.
Now the other fun part is trying to take a smear to put on the small squares in the testing kit. In my case, every movement that I did was hard, not soft. In fact they were about the hardness of cheddar cheese.
Have you ever tried cutting a small piece of cheddar cheese with a piece of cardboard, then attempting to smear just a tiny bit onto a square of plastic? I tell you, it’s nigh on impossible, and I ended up smearing this stuff all over the place, just trying to take a teeny weeny sample.
Other than that the test was easy, but it was a humorous experience that albeit rather gross to discuss, I felt I had to write about it for those of you who can see the funny side of this type of experience.
And in my case the results have come back all clear, phew! No sign of bowel cancer or any of the other things that they test for fortunately. It doesn’t mean I don’t have any problems, but the tests didn’t show up anything at least.
I’m good to go for another two years at least.
Well I hope you enjoyed that read and weren’t too disgusted at the gruesome details. Do you have any medical procedure stories that are humorous? If so, please leave us a comment and share.