Woman, 35, hit by bowel cancer shares the ‘first’ sign

Bowel cancer: Dr Amir explains symptoms to look out for

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From a history of bowel cancer in your family to an unhealthy diet packed with processed meat, there are various culprits that can increase your risk of bowel cancer. However, Katie, from Essex, who didn’t share her last name, didn’t belong to any of these categories. Despite that, the 35-year-old at the time was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in 2021.

There’s no precise order of symptoms that dictates how bowel cancer will start but the first signs often strike on the loo or in your tummy.

This is exactly what happened to Katie. She told Bowel Cancer UK: “On 1 August 2021, I suffered excruciating stomach pain and blood in my stools, which was in fact the first symptom that I had.

“I was literally paralysed on the floor whilst I was playing with my son.

“It lasted approximately 15 minutes and then I was able to crawl to the toilet where I had a bowel movement.”

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At first, the 35-year-old at the time thought she had a “bad case” of trapped wind but the colour of her stool made her doubt this.

“I noticed the colour of my stools to be a purplish red, which I knew I should get checked out,” she said.

This wasn’t the first time the mum spotted blood in her stool but she wasn’t “too worried” because her GPs have previously always dismissed this symptom as “normal”.

According to the NHS, abdominal pain and rectal bleeding are considered some of the tell-tale signs of bowel cancer. 

The health service explains the full list of “main” symptoms to look out for includes:

  • Persistent change in bowel habit (pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos)
  • Blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids) 
  • Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating (always brought on by eating) 
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss.

The NHS recommends seeing a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.

Eventually, Katie’s GP referred her to urgent endoscopy which revealed a cancerous “mass”.

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As the mum was breastfeeding at the time, she wasn’t sedated for the procedure which allowed her to see everything “fully”.

She added: “I had zero risk factors for bowel cancer. I was a young age at 35.

“As a vegetarian, I didn’t eat red or processed meat, nor did I eat much when I was a meat eater. 

“I ate a high-fibre diet. I have always been a healthy weight and I have always been reasonably fit and physically active.”

Once Katie received her diagnosis, she had an operation scheduled to remove a section of her bowel.

This procedure was followed by chemotherapy to suppress a secondary tumour from appearing.

She said: “The chemotherapy has been like the back end of an endurance race; feeling exhausted, both mentally and physically, and hitting the wall but knowing you have to keep going through it to make it to the finish line. 

“We got through it and I could not have done it without the unbelievable, unconditional support of my family and friends.”

Fortunately, her scans have been clear since so she’s been now moved on to the surveillance programme for the next five years. 

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