BREAST, bowel and lung cancer accounts for about half of the avoidable deaths in Scotland and yet cancer is more treatable now than it has ever been.
That is why NHS Borders is backing the national Detect Cancer Early campaign to encourage people to get checked because the earlier cancer is found the easier it is to treat.
John Rainey, consultant surgeon and lead clinician for cancer services in the Borders, says huge inroads have been made into reducing waiting times for cancer patients so that treatment can begin as quickly as possible after diagnosis.
“I know it can take people a long time to pluck up courage to go and see their GP when they think they might have cancer or they think they might be wasting the doctor’s time because their symptoms seem quite minor.
“All I can say is, it will be far less scary if we can catch it early. It could be nothing at all but at the very least we might be able to put your mind at rest and that is never a waste of time,” he said.
One person who knows the importance of getting checked early is Peebles-born Karen Raeburn. Karen was diagnosed with bowel cancer 10 years ago and believes going to her doctor as soon as she had the first symptoms made all the difference.
“I only had a weekend of symptoms, which started with diarrhoea and developed into blood and mucus when I went to the toilet,” she explained.
“I visited my doctor who asked for a sample and sent it off to the hospital to be tested. I felt fine and after three months and no other symptoms, the hospital contacted me and called me in for a follow-up. At this point I still didn’t think it was serious. In fact, I was going to put the appointment off since there had been no more diarrhoea.
“On March 15, 2002, my doctor arrived at the house to tell me that it was bowel cancer. I was 36 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday. The word cancer hadn’t been mentioned until this day and it all felt surreal. My family were more upset than I was.
“But it started to feel easier once I told people. My sons were eight and 10 and we talked to them about it. I felt it was important for them to understand what was going on but I didn’t make a fuss.
“I had an operation to remove the tumour and they took away 10cm of my bowel. I didn’t need a colostomy bag. This was followed by chemotherapy which lasted for six months.”
Karen was given the all clear 10 years ago and her advice to others is simple. “If you notice any change in bowel movement or spot any blood or mucus then it’s important to go to your doctor and get checked out.
“If caught early there is life after cancer, so don’t be frightened to talk to your doctor.”