Robert Hunt is fit, healthy and very thankful that he answered an invite to be screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
The 67 year-old’s life was saved by the screening programme. The biggest danger about AAA is that there are no symptoms, and most men have no idea there is a problem until something is found during screening.
Robert, a former HR manager from Nunthorpe, said: “When I got the letter inviting me for screening, it was to my local screening centre 15 minutes away, and thought I had nothing to lose so I attended. During the screening my technician found that my aorta was enlarged, and I was at risk of rupture. I knew that this must be unusual when my technician shouted to a colleague ‘I think I’ve found one!’”
When asked what advice he would give to other men in the north east who receive their letter but aren’t sure about whether to attend, he said: “I had no symptoms, and for me, this screening has meant an extension of life. If they hadn’t found it, it was in danger of rupturing, and my chance of survival would have been pretty slim. The whole process of the screening took an hour, the staff were all so friendly and the ultrasound scan didn’t hurt at all.”
After Robert was found to have an AAA, he had regular check-ups over the next three years to check its size, the growth rate of an enlarged aorta can be reduced through healthy eating and exercise, and stopping smoking. Once an AAA reaches 5.5cm in diameter it is the point of no return and patients are referred for treatment.
Robert was referred to surgeon Ian Nichol, at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, and is the 100th man to have been referred for treatment by the regional screening programme run from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.
After discussing his options, Robert decided to have open surgery to have his aneurism repaired. Robert added: “The surgery went much better than I thought it would and after 2-3 weeks I felt absolutely fine, although they do advise it can take 3-6 months before you are back to your normal self. I’ve made a full recovery now and it means that I’m still around and well enough to play with my grandchildren. The screening technicians, the surgical team and the nurses involved in my care have all been superb.”
AAA screening is a free national screening programme that screens men aged 65 plus to check if they have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The screening is by invitation, and men should receive a letter shortly after their 65th birthday.
The aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to your body. It runs from your heart down through your chest and abdomen. In some people, as they get older, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak. It can then start to expand and form what is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The condition is most common in men aged 65 and above.
Without intervention, the aneurysm will rupture when it gets to a certain width and in the majority of cases is fatal.