By Jo Walker, Senior Press Officer, Beating Bowel Cancer
We all spend a fair bit of time on the loo over our lifetimes but tend to avoid talking about any problems we might have there, which can lead to life- threatening illnesses going unchecked.
Londoner, Stephen Browne, was a healthy 45-year-old when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012.
Each year 41,600 people in the UK get diagnosed with bowel cancer – that’s someone every 15 minutes. Early diagnosis can save lives but lack of knowledge of symptoms, embarrassment and fear, mean that many people delay getting symptoms checked out.
Stephen was one of them. He said “When I got stomach cramps I thought it was irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which I had suffered from in the past. So I didn’t think it was anything serious.
“Even when I noticed blood in my poo, I put it down to piles so still didn’t realise there was anything to worry about.”
It wasn’t until almost a year later when the symptoms had been continuous, that Stephen eventually told his wife and GP who discovered he had bowel cancer.
The building surveyor from Edmonton said “It was such a shock because I felt fit and healthy and had no idea that the symptoms I had were symptoms of bowel cancer.”
Stephen had an operation in March 2012 and thankfully has made a full recovery. He has this message for others, “A lot of people, especially men, bury their head in the sand when they’re ill, either assuming it’s nothing serious or avoiding the GP because they’re embarrassed or don’t want to waste their time.
“We need to change this attitude and get in the habit of getting checked out because you never know when symptoms can be a sign of something serious – and an early diagnosis can make all the difference.”
9 out 10 cases of bowel cancer can be successfully treated if caught early enough
Following his operation, Stephen felt quite down so he contacted Beating Bowel Cancer’s helpline. “The charity has specialist nurses who you can talk to and it was a real lifeline for me,” says Stephen. “It’s vital that the charity is here for the thousands of people like me who contact them each year and I now help them to fundraise and raise awareness of the disease whenever I can.”
Beating Bowel Cancer is one of the charity’s benefitting from this year’s Lord Mayor’s Appeal and on City Giving Day on 11th July the charity will be raising awareness of bowel cancer to City workers with a 3 metre high loo roll outside St Paul’s Cathedral.
The charity’s chief executive, Mark Flannagan, says “As Stephen’s story highlights, bowel cancer is treatable if caught early enough so it’s really important that people are aware of the symptoms.
“A giant loo roll is not a sight you see every day on the concourse outside St Paul’s so we hope it will get people talking about bowel cancer and if anyone in the area has any questions or concerns, they can come and talk to us on the day.”
Stephen now has the all clear and is back at work; “Since my diagnosis I’ve not been embarrassed to talk about bowels and to make people more aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer. That way more people can get help if they notice something is wrong.”
“I want to encourage everyone to get behind the Lord Mayor’s Appeal and Beating Bowel Cancer.”
Representatives from the Beating Bowel Cancer charity will be down at St Paul’s from 8am to 5pm on 11th July to answer any queries and give information about the symptoms of bowel cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Beating Bowel Cancer advises people to go to the GP if they have any of the following symptoms for three weeks or more:
If you’re worried about bowel cancer, you can contact Beating Bowel Cancer’s helpline on 08450 719 301, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.beatingbowelcancer.org.