A Widnes pensioner, whose life was saved thanks to a mobile cancer screening van, is adding her voice to the Year of Action on Cancer, encouraging people across Merseyside and Cheshire to get checked out if they notice any changes to their body.
Anne Hopkinson, 71, has first-hand experience of the mobile cancer information service, iVan, after a routine visit resulted in the diagnosis of the life threatening skin cancer, malignant melanoma, late last year.
The cancer iVan travels around Merseyside and Cheshire, offering free information on all aspects of cancer to help promote early detection and prevention of the disease. Last year iVan staff helped to provide advice to 35,000 visitors to the service across the region. More than 500 of these were referred to their local GP or cancer specialist for further investigation and a staggering 40 cases of cancer were diagnosed as a result of the free-to-use service.*
Anne recalls the traumatic experience which took place two days before Christmas last year: “I went along to iVan when it was parked outside Morrisons in Widnes last year, I was just nipping in to get some shopping but when I saw the van, I thought it would be worth checking out a mark I’d been worrying about on my waist.
“The nurse was really friendly and I felt like I was in safe hands. The mark turned out to be nothing to worry about but the nurse noticed another mark on my chest as I was leaving. I’d always thought it was just a freckle but she advised me to get it checked out by my GP anyway.
“My GP was very concerned; I was sent straight for surgery to remove the mark and was later diagnosed with malignant melanoma, before having to undergo another round of surgery in January. I couldn’t believe something I hadn’t even noticed myself had turned out to be so serious.
“Luckily, the operations were successful and I was given the all-clear in January this year; I now have to go for routine check-ups but my surgeon told me I was a lucky lady as the cancer had reached my final layer of skin, so it had been caught in the nick of time. This just shows the importance of catching cancer as early as possible.
“I recently went back to the iVan to see the lady who I believe saved my life, I later found out she was called Debbie. It was an emotional experience and I remember us both hugging and crying, I really can’t thank her enough for what she did.
“I now urge all my friends to go and visit the iVan, it’s a fantastic service and I’m walking proof that it can save lives.”
Debbie Doherty is the iVan service manager and cancer nurse specialist, she’s been working on the cancer awareness vehicle since it launched in 2009. Debbie commented, “I am so pleased the iVan helped Anne, it’s our job to make sure we give out the correct advice about all types of cancer and I was concerned as soon as I saw the mark on her chest. It’s so important to get everything checked out, even if you don’t believe it to be serious, as early detection of cancer can save lives.”
Year of Action on Cancer was launched by NHS Merseyside, NHS Cheshire Warrington and Wirral and the Liverpool Cancer Research UK Centre earlier this year to educate residents on all aspects of cancer from prevention to research and innovation and treatment available in the region.
Gideon Ben-Tovim, Chair of NHS Merseyside, also commented on Anne’s story, saying: “It’s fantastic to hear that one of our innovative services has helped save the life of another individual. Many thousands of lives could be saved every year if cancer was diagnosed earlier. We’re urging everyone to go and see the doctor as soon as they’re aware of any persistent symptoms. It may not be cancer, but it’s vital to get it checked as the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more likely treatment will be successful.”
iVan has been providing a vital service to the public in Merseyside and Cheshire and has continued to raise awareness and help to detect earlier cancers, making it an integral part of NHS Merseyside’s fight against the disease.