Colon Cancer is tricky to diagnose, especially in mums. The vast majority of cases appear in the over 50s and routine screening by the NHS doesn’t kick in until you’re over 60. What’s more, piles (haemorrhoids) are common amongst us post-pregnancy ladies – the symptoms of which often mimic the early stages of Colon Cancer. If I had £1 for every single time a GP has diagnosed me with piles in the last three years then I’d be swanning off to The Maldives first thing tomorrow.
Cancer is still considered unusual pre-40s, despite rising figures indicating to the contrary. In my experience, GPs are not grasping this growth. I had to shout, and then shout some more for my diagnosis. It’s all too easy for us mums to be fobbed off because of our age.
And it’s not just at the GP stage. Once a referral to a specialist is made the wait is often months because we’re still not deemed ‘high risk’. And then it’s another three months for tests to be scheduled… All the while that cancer clock is ticking. Caught early the prognosis is good. Caught late and the odds fall sharply.
In light of my own cancer diagnosis please find a list of my symptoms below in the hope that they help/reassure a few mums out there. Colon Cancer is a slow-grower. My surgeon estimates that mine has been festering away in there for 5-7 years. Symptoms often only show up at a later stage so it’s imperative that a prompt diagnosis is sought as soon as symptoms present themselves.
Disclaimer alert: I am not a doctor, nor do I purport to be. I was rubbish at science at school so I fell at the first hurdle… I do have my own story to tell though. Please remember that many of my symptoms are really common and DO NOT necessarily mean you have cancer.
- Blood In Stool: I first noticed this in December. I immediately thought ‘piles’ but it didn’t go away. It was there with every bowel movement – not a lot but just enough to make my heart rate accelerate and my fingers reach for Dr Google.
- Change in Bowel Habit: In October last year my father was diagnosed with end stage Renal Cancer. I come from a very close family so the aftershocks were, at times, hard to bear. I started going to the bathroom more often and put it down to stress. But it never eased up which, again, was unusual for me.
- Tiredness: Erm… show me a mum who isn’t tired! But when I started napping on the sofa every afternoon whilst Jess was watching Paw Patrol I knew something wasn’t right.
- Blood Test Results: I’ve had lots of blood tests in the last six months but the only abnormalities that showed up was a small CRP increase (an inflammation marker) and a Vitamin D deficiency. Strangely there was never any anemia, which can indicate bowel cancer (through loss of blood in stool).
Other symptoms of early stage Bowel Cancer (ones I didn’t suffer from) are as follows:
- Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating brought on by eating (can sometimes result in weight loss).
- Alternating constipation and diarrhea for longer than four weeks.
I’d like to stress again that all these symptoms are very common but do see your GP if they persist.
Please share this amongst fellow mums. Early diagnosis is KEY. It’s up to us to cut those waiting times down and make GPs aware that we may be at risk too.