Emmerdale actor and Lincoln panto star Frazer Hines tells of cancer battle
A soap star says his 11-year battle with cancer should encourage more adults to look out for the killer signs.
Frazer Hines, famous for his acting roles in Doctor Who and Emmerdale, told the Echo he wanted to talk about his ordeal to encourage the public to be more aware.
Mr Hines, who had a farm in Coddington and was a regular in pantomime in Lincoln, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer – a type of bowel cancer – in 1999.
He had surgery a week later, followed by a course of chemotherapy.
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He was soon told the cancer was in remission, and two years ago was finally given the all-clear.
The 67-year-old was in Lincoln last week to spearhead the Department of Health's Be Clear on Cancer campaign.
It's aim is to encourage the public to be aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.
Health advisors spent two days talking to consumers at the Waterside Shopping Centre, encouraging them to visit their GP, if they have had blood in their poo or loose stools for more than three weeks.
Mr Hines greeted shoppers at the centre and offered up advice and anecdotes from his own experiences with the disease.
"The thing about bowel cancer is that no-one wants to talk about it," he said.
"Breast cancer and throat cancer are far more widely discussed.
"Because it's bowel, it's part of the gut, toilets are associated with it and people just don't want to talk about such a thing.
"I always say the bowel is only a part of your engine; you've got your liver, kidneys and your heart, your lungs and your bowel. It's all part of your engine and if your engine goes wrong, you have got to have something to do with it.
"I made up this saying last year, when I was interviewed on The Michael Ball Show: 'Would you rather a doctor took your trousers off once or an undertaker take them off forever?'"
Bowel cancer screening kits are sent to people aged 60-69 every two years; such kits can help detect the cancer early, before there are any noticeable symptoms.
Mr Hines, 67, said he had been lucky his bowel cancer had been spotted.
In 1999 he was given a testing kit as part of a routine health check. But it remained in the suit he wore that day for six months, before he found it and tested himself.
"I took the sample to a doctor and he took me through an examination. He found a polyp and referred me to a surgeon. I saw the surgeon within days and he strongly advised I have surgery within the week.
"Once he had told me it was cancer, it felt like a bowling ball hitting me in the stomach. You never think it will be you."
The actor has been regular on the theatre and pantomime circuit for decades, with several spells at Lincoln's Theatre Royal etched into his memory.
He says he decided to keep the cancer quiet so he wouldn't harm his career.
But his decision to go public in 2010 has led to him becoming a much-needed champion of self-testing.
"When I was approached two months ago to head this campaign, I ensured it would not be just a week-long campaign," he said. "We cannot afford to merely raise the issue for one week and then let people die for the other 51, no, we have to keep people aware."
Stevie Ansell, of the 'Be Clear on Cancer' campaign, said: "Caught in time, there's a 90 per cent survival rate. If the cancer's left, it's the second most aggressive cancer and it goes right down to 6.6 per cent survival rate."