If you’re nervous of seeing a doctor or having tests done, the team at the Mary How Trust for Cancer Prevention are there to put you at ease.
People who come for a health screening with the charity are met by a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, says lead nurse Beverley Richards, who has been with the trust for nearly ten years.
“I feel very privileged to work here, it’s such a lovely place,” she says.
The trust screens people from across the area at its base in Pulborough, and anyone over the age of 18 can apply. There is no upper age limit. Its aim is to make screening available to people from all walks of life, and instead of a fee people are asked to make a donation based on ability to pay.
“The average age of people coming for a screening is 50-60, but we are getting many more younger people now,”
Beverley says: “We have always had more women than men, but the number of men coming is increasing which is great.
“Many of them come for the prostate blood test. One gentleman came because a friend had prostate problems and he decided it was time he got checked out.”
Each nurse appointment lasts for an hour and clients are asked to bring along a urine and stool sample, and fill in some questions about family and medical history. Blood samples are taken to test for cholesterol, diabetes, liver and kidney function, anaemia and prostate. The nurse records weight and body mass index, and does an ECG to check for heart problems. Clients also have a half hour appointment for an ultrasound scan.
The results are explained to the client, and passed to their GPs, with the client’s consent, so any concerns can be followed up.
“We ask people about their lifestyle, and people are generally very honest because we do it in a non-judgemental way,”
Beverley adds: “Everyone leads such busy lives, sometimes just sitting, filling in the paperwork and thinking about their levels of exercise, what they’re eating and how much they’re drinking is enough to inspire a change.
“You might only have ten minutes with a GP but in an hour’s nurse appointment you can relax and ask questions and discuss any worries. If we can’t answer questions at the time we can try to find out the answers, provide leaflets or direct people to good websites with clear information.
“It’s so rewarding when you see someone come back for another screening after a couple of years and you can see the changes they’ve made to their lifestyle, and the difference it has made to their health.”
And for anyone who thinks they’d prefer not to know about any looming health problems,
Beverley says: “If you have any problems, the earlier it can be detected and treated, the better the outcome.”
This year the trust is marking its 30th anniversary, and this newspaper is backing its £30 for 30 Years appeal. It’s aiming to raise £30,000 - the amount it costs to run its lab for a year. It has already raised an amazing £30,000 for a new ultrasound machine thanks to your support. To make a donation or request a screening, visit www.maryhowtrust.org