It’s not the usual subject for poetry – but Ian McMillan’s latest verse is on a toilet-related theme.
The Bard of Barnsley is supporting a campaign reminding people in Leeds to ensure they take part in crucial screening tests for bowel cancer.
And during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, the popular poet has penned a new verse featuring his trademark wit called Poo Sticks, about how to do the test.
Ian said: “I turned 60 this year and I was happy to do the bowel cancer test when it plopped through the letterbox.
“It’s simple to do it and it could save your life, so when it arrives get the sticks and get testing.”
Everyone aged 60 to 74 receives the screening test, which can be completed at home, every two years. But less than 60 per cent are returned by Leeds residents, a figure which drops to below 30 per cent in some parts of the city.
Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, but if caught early enough, it is one of the easiest cancers to treat successfully.
The screening tests can detect warning signs even before symptoms appear so NHS Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has launched a campaign to encourage people to ensure they take part in screening.
The NHs has worked with Leeds City Council’s Public Health team to boost take-up, including piloting a special helper kit to make the test easier to do.
Philip Lewer, chair of NHS Leeds South and East CCG, said: “Like Ian, I am also eligible to take the test and I’ve made sure I take it whenever I am sent it.
“Ian is such a popular writer, we’re delighted that he is backing our bowel cancer screening campaign in Leeds. We hope his fantastic poem will encourage people to talk about the test and feel more comfortable about taking it. It really could be a lifesaver.”
Leeds consultant colorectal surgeon Prof David Jayne has also warned that people should act quickly if they notice anything unusual.
Prof Jayne, who practices at Spire Leeds Hospital in Roundhay said: “If you know what is normal you can then act if something out of the ordinary happens.
“A change in your bowel habit that lasts for three weeks or more and blood in your poo are warning signs that need acting upon as soon as possible.
“More than 16,200 people in the UK died of bowel cancer in 2012.
“Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to let people know they can actually do positive things to improve their health while also to get across the message that early detection really does make a massive difference to the success of treatment.”
To see the poem and an animation about the test, visit http://bit.ly/1qtG6Pu