MILLIONS of people have no idea that bowel cancer can strike if you’re under the age of 50, a charity has revealed.
Younger people with symptoms of bowel cancer are delaying seeking help from their GPs as they are unaware that under 50s can get the disease.
Bowel Cancer UK surveyed 1,073 people in the UK who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer under the age of 50.
In its new report “Never Too Young”, the charity revealed that 50 per cent of people were not aware they could develop the disease at a younger age prior to prognosis.
It also found that 30 per cent had delayed visiting their GP for at least three months if they had displayed symptoms, while more than four in ten were forced to visit their doctor three times or more.
Over 42,000 people are diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in the UK every year and it is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK.
That’s why The Sun launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign to urge people to talk about their insides and their number twos, in a bid to beat bowel cancer.
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer is where the disease starts in the large intestines.
It’s also referred to as colon or colorectal cancer, because it can also affect the colon and rectum.
Most bowel cancers develop from pre-cancerous growths, called polyps.
Not all will turn cancerous, but if your doctor finds any, they will tend to remove them to prevent cancer.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common form of the disease in the UK, with 42,000 people diagnosed every year, according to Bowel Cancer UK.
More than 94 per cent of new cases are in people over the age of 50, while nearly 59 per cent are in the over 70s.
But bowel cancer can affect anyone, of any age with more than 2,500 cases diagnosed in people under the age of 50 each year.
Research from Bowel Cancer UK revealed that one in six people had to return to their doctor at least five times before being referred for bowel cancer tests.
It also revealed that a third of those surveyed were unaware of their symptoms before they started, with more than four in ten just knowing a few.
Speaking to The Sun Daniel Jeffreys from Chelmsford, who lost his wife Caroline, 41, to bowel cancer last year said he hadn’t even thought about the illness until his wife was diagnosed with it.
Dan said that wife Caroline had always suffered with irritable bowel syndrome and had become gluten free in order to quell her symptoms.
Then in 2017 she started to develop back pain and she visited a chiaropractor.
He said: “The chiaropractor massaged her and later on she was given steroid injections. When this didn’t help they told Caroline that she should go and have further tests.”
At this point bowel cancer hadn’t been mentioned and Caroline was having a range of tests to determine why she was in pain – which led her to have a colonoscopy.
“We had no history of bowel cancer at all in the family so we didn’t even think about it”, Dan says.
“Caroline was advised that she had a tumour in her bowel and that it had spread to her liver – it was just a horrific experience all round.”
The specialist then gave the couple the damning news that they “couldn’t cure her”, which Dan said had completely come out of the blue.
“At that point Caroline was struggling to go to the toilet.
“She was petrified. We started reading about bowel cancer and you read it’s terminal, but no one mentioned that at that point”.
Dan said that Caroline remained up beat for their children, but said there were times she would just burst out crying.
Go to your GP – don’t let them fob you off because you are too young
Caroline had the tumour removed and the specialist told her she would be moved on to palliative care – this was the first time the couple had heard these words.
After this the couple tried everything and even looked to spiritual healers for help.
Looking back, Dan says it’s key that people assess all their symptoms and don’t just dismiss individual issues.
“The back pain was their, the IBS was there – all of those things in isolation could be different but putting one or two of them together could be fatal.
“Go to your GP – don’t let them fob you off because you are too young.
“If you catch it early – then you have a huge chance of living a fully effective life.”
Speaking on what would have been Carloines 43rd birthday, Dan said people need to face up to their symptoms and not bury their heads in the sand.
“All of the symptoms could be something else, if you have things like blood in your stool then go and get checked.”
While screening is one way of ensuring early diagnosis, there are things everyone can do to reduce their risk of the deadly disease.
Being aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer, spotting any changes and checking with your GP can prove a life-saver.
If you notice any of the signs, don’t be embarrassed and don’t ignore them. Doctors are used to seeing lots of patients with bowel problems.
But what are the key symptoms of bowel cancer and what should you be looking out for?
1. Abnormal bleeding
If you’re bleeding from your back passage then this may be a sign of bowel cancer.
This is also the same if you have blood in your poo.
It may be that you have been a little too vigorous when cleaning yourself, but it’s always best to get it checked out.
2. Change in habits
If you’ve noticed a change in your bowel habits, for example if you have been going the toilet more often, then this is also a key sign.
Make a note of how many times a day you are going and present your doctor with these facts.
Experiencing pain in your stomach might just mean you have a stomach ache – but it is also a sign of bowel cancer.
Also look out for lumps in your tummy.
Some people have a variety of symptoms and Caroline also experienced back pain along with other symptoms such as constipation.
During the hot weather many of us have felt a little bit lethargic, but if these feelings of tiredness are more extreme than often then you should see a GP.
Tumours in the bowel typically bleed, which can cause a shortage of red blood cells, known as anaemia. It can cause tiredness and sometimes breathlessness.
5. Losing weight
While we all think it’s great to lose a few pounds here and there, unintentional weight loss could be a sign.
If you’ve noticed that you have lost weight then try and keep a log of how much you have lost and since when.
Other signs of bowel cancer include:
- Gripping pains in the abdomen
- Feeling bloated
- Constipation and being unable to pass wind
- Being sick
- Feeling like you need to strain – like doing a number two – but after you’ve been to the loo
While these are all signs to watch out for, experts warn the most serious is noticing blood in your stools.
But, they warn it can prove tricky for doctors to diagnose the disease, because in most cases these symptoms will be a sign of a less serious disease.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Bowel Cancer UK’s chief executive Genevieve Edwards said it was concerning that doctors are ruling out patients because of their age.
She added: “Nobody should be told they don’t have bowel cancer based only on their age, and referrals for further investigation should be made as soon as possible. ”