A MILFORD Haven cancer survivor, who discovered he had bowel cancer after completing a simple test through the post, is fronting a new campaign to raise awareness of screening.

John McSparron, 66, is taking part in the Be Clear on Cancer campaign launched by Public Health Wales and Cancer Research UK.

John said: “When my bowel screening kit arrived seven years ago, I thought ‘What on earth do I want to be doing that for?’ .

"I was busy with a full-time job and I did not feel ill.

"The kit sat on the table for a couple of weeks.

“Then one day I was on my way to go to the toilet and I went back to get it.

"I was halfway upstairs and I came back to fetch it – I don’t know why but I am so glad I did.

“I was asked to do another test and then I was sent for a colonoscopy and diagnosed with bowel cancer.

"I had surgery at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest and was monitored for five years.

"I’ve had clear scans since."

Milford Mercury: Cancer survivor John McSparron wants people to take the home screening test.

“If I hadn’t done it, I don’t think I would be here now.

"I am still here with my sons, grandchildren and great-grandchild.

“There hadn’t been any family history of bowel cancer, so I always tell everyone now the importance of doing the kit as soon as it arrives – just do it!”

John's experience inspired his brother, Philip, from Barry, to take the test too.

Philip made history last year when his colonoscopy was televised live as part of Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign.

Milford Mercury: Phillip McSparron underwent a colonoscopy live on television.

Throughout February and March, John's story will be shared on television, social media, and in newspapers across Wales.

People aged between 60 and 74 who are registered with a GP will receive an NHS bowel cancer screening kit through the post, every two years.

The simple test is designed to detect early signs of bowel cancer.

Figures released last week show only 53.4 per cent of people invited for bowel cancer screening return a used test kit within six months of their invitation.

Around 2,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in Wales each year, and around 9 in 10 of those diagnosed are aged 55 or over.

Nicola Smith, of Cancer Research UK, said: “Some people don’t return the test kit because they think they don’t need to take part unless they’re feeling ill.

"But screening is designed to try and spot bowel cancer before any symptoms develop.

“Even if the results show something out of the ordinary, it doesn’t mean it will turn out to be cancer.

"But if it is cancer, catching it at an early stage could make all the difference.”

Screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16 per cent.

When bowel cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage, more than nine in 10 people will survive the disease for more than five years.

Dr Sharon Hillier, of Public Health Wales, said: "Bowel screening can find signs of bowel cancer early giving the best chance of survival, and raising awareness of the programme through campaigns like this is really important.

"Don’t ignore your screening test, it could save your life.”

For more information click here or ring the NHS Wales Bowel Cancer Screening Helpline on 0800 294 3370.