An Eastbourne woman has handed a petition with more than 400,000 signatures into Parliament calling to lower the bowel cancer screening age after her mother died of the disease.
Just days after running the London Marathon in memory of her mother Fiona, Lauren Backler strode up to the Department of Health today (Thursday) to hand in the letter after a three-year battle lobbying for change.
The 27-year-old lost her mother to the cancer aged just 55 and was devastated when she learned that, had her mother lived in Scotland, she would have already been screened for it three times.
But in England the screening age is 60 – so Lauren has been working with charity Beating Bowel Cancer to give patients a higher chance of survival by lowering the age to 50.
Lauren, who lives in Seaside, said to the Herald, “It’s been an emotional day. We all marched down to the Department of Health together.
“We have had lots of people come to support who actually had bowel cancer, and those are the kind of people I’m doing this for, so that really got me.”
Lauren met with campaigners at Parliament Square and marched to the Department of Health, where she handed in the box with all the petitions.
The trainee primary teacher said, “Hopefully we’ll get some kind of response. It’s just another step for the campaign, piling pressure on the Government to make a change. And I will continue to do this until they do something.
“It’s also about raising awareness of bowel cancer, it’s such a huge killer but it’s not publicly talked about.
“I just don’t want other families going through what we did. If I can prevent anyone else having to go through that I will.
“I’m so determined I don’t want to stop until we achieve our aim. I’m not going anywhere.”
Lauren has received support from the town’s MP Stephen Lloyd as well as the former MP Caroline Ansell.
Mr Lloyd said, “When Lauren came to see me a year or so ago and told me about her mother and about how if she’d lived in Scotland her life may well have been saved I was eager to do all I could to support her campaign.
“Soon afterwards, I laid in Parliament an Early Day Motion which has secured the support of 77 MPs across all the party’s demanding the Health Department in England start screening for bowel cancer at age 50.
“Today’s event in London where Lauren and all her supporters handed in this huge petition, which has the support of an incredible 446,000 people nationwide, cannot and must not be ignored by Jeremy Hunt.
“I will continue, with my parliamentary colleagues, to press the government until her dream, and that of many others, comes true.”
And Caroline Ansell said, “I was so pleased to be with Lauren Backler in Westminster today – what a tireless campaigner and inspiration she is.
“Losing her mum to Bowel Cancer, Lauren has been hugely courageous in her own battle, together with Bowel Cancer UK, to see routine screening brought down to age 50.
“Along the way, in raising awareness of this preventable and curable disease – and its symptoms – she is already helping to save lives.
“Bowel Cancer is the number two Cancer killer, and needs to be brought out into the light like breast cancer and prostate cancer before it.
“Time for a bit of a culture change and for us all to be a bit less British on this one.”
The petition, which now has more than 450,000 signatures, is available online here.