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Jennifer Smith: Taking part in research doesn't have to be difficult

Jennifer Smith from South Shields recently took part in the COLO-COHORT study at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and found the experience quick, easy and straightforward.

COLO-COHORT is a colorectal cancer study funded by the Guts UK charity that aims to develop a “risk stratification” tool to help identify which patients are at highest risk of having adenomas or bowel cancer. The goal is that patients who are at low risk will be able to avoid having an unnecessary colonoscopy, thereby relieving pressure on overstretched endoscopy services in the NHS. The study also explores the significance of the gut bacteria composition in patients with adenomas or cancer to help inform the risk model. This information would also be used to help better target endoscopy services to those who most need it.

Jennifer, who works for the local authority catering service and enjoys watching rugby, walking, star-gazing and aqua fit, told us about her experience and her reasons for taking part.

How did you first find out about the study?

“I recently had a hysterectomy and it was found that I had granulation tissue in both my ovaries. Although the doctors thought it unlikely, this might have been caused by Crohn’s disease. I have also been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which meant that my doctor referred me for a colonoscopy when I started to experience bowel irregularities. Prior to my appointment I received a phone call from Madeleine, one of the research nurses at South Tyneside District Hospital, asking whether I wanted to take part in the COLO-COHORT study. I did not hesitate to say yes.”

What made you want to take part?

“Studies like this are so important for medical research. I saw it as an opportunity to do something good, so I thought, ‘why not help?’. I could potentially make somebody’s life better with very little inconvenience to myself, so there was no reason for me not to do it.
This is actually my second time taking part in research - I had taken part in a warfarin study before and knew how straightforward the experience can be.”

What did taking part in the study involve?

“It was very easy and it hardly took any extra time at all. When I arrived at the hospital for my appointment, I was met by Madeleine who talked me through the process and asked me to sign the consent form. Most of the samples that were needed for the study were taken as part of the procedure I was having anyway; the only additional thing I was asked to do was to give a blood sample. As I have had many blood tests in the past this did not bother me. The research team at the hospital were lovely and explained everything very carefully. At no point was I ever asked to do anything I was uncomfortable with.”

What would you say to somebody who is unsure whether to take part in research?

“It was such a quick and simple thing to do that could potentially make a positive impact on someone else’s life. Taking part in research doesn’t necessarily mean attending lots of additional appointments or going through scary procedures - in my case, it was part of the care I was having anyway. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if given the opportunity.”

Professor Colin Rees, Chief Investigator for the COLO-COHORT study at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The rapid development of vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the fundamental importance of research in addressing health problems. It is only by undertaking research that medicine moves forward.

“Bowel cancer kills 44 people in the UK every day and COLO-COHORT aims to discover which individuals are at greatest risk, thus allowing us to diagnose cancer earlier and stop people dying from it. We are incredibly grateful to patients like Jennifer who take part in research; without them we could not address these important research questions and improve the care for all patients.

“I would also like to thank our dedicated team of research staff who deliver these important research studies.”

If you are interested in taking part in a research study, please visit to find out how you can get involved.