Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: young survivor's warning
- Credit: Courtesy of Kris Westcott
Bowel cancer is most common in people aged over 60, but a keen runner diagnosed when he was just 36 is keen to promote the 'never too young' message, especially as April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
Kris Westcott, who lives in Stevenage, was given the devastating news he had bowel cancer in May 2019, after doctors found a 10cm tumour.
He had surgery to remove the tumour, followed by a three-month course of Folfox chemotherapy - a treatment specifically for bowel cancer, and he is now thankfully in remission.
But Kris had ignored his symptoms for 18 months before seeking medical help, and is keen to encourage others not to make the same mistake.
He said: "I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have found the cancer at its most critical moment. It was just about ready to pierce through to the outside bowel wall.
"So, listen up, you can never be too safe. Don’t be a chancer. I left it so long before I did anything about it.
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"If you have any of the symptoms, go to see your GP. If they don’t listen, you must persist. Early diagnosis is critical and can save your life. You don’t want to die of embarrassment just because you didn’t want to visit the GP.
"Initially, my GP told me I was too young for it to be bowel cancer, and it was probably piles, but I knew it was something more. Trust your gut.”
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The three main symptoms of bowel cancer are persistent blood in your poo, a persistent change in your bowel habit, and persistent lower abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort – that's always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss.
The NHS recommends you see your GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.
Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Most people diagnosed with it - almost 90 per cent - are over the age of 60. However, more than 2,500 younger people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year, so in 2013 the charity Bowel Cancer UK launched the campaign Never Too Young to raise awareness of bowel cancer in younger people and improve early diagnosis.