‘Young’ woman, 35, hit with bowel cancer after ‘on and off’ symptoms

Bowel cancer: Dr Hilary outlines the main symptoms

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Bowel cancer is often portrayed as a condition that crops up behind closed bathroom doors. While tell-tale signs can crop up when you go for a number two, this isn’t always the case. Lauren Sack, from Hertfordshire, who was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer at the age of 35, knows this far too well.

Dr Sara Mesilhy, Gastroenterologist from the Royal College of Physicians UK, told Express.co.uk in a previous interview that rectal bleeding is often the first and most noticeable symptom of bowel cancer.

However, blood in your poo might not be the first red flag you experience.

In Lauren’s case, “severe” tummy pain rang alarm bells, alerting the 35-year-old that something was wrong.

She told Bowel Cancer UK: “My symptoms started in May 2018. I had severe stomach pain which would go on and off and last a few days before coming back a few weeks later.

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“I went to my GP in May 2018. He said it was because of the contraceptive coil I had. 

“I also had severe anaemia which he said was down to my periods. I ended up going back and forth for months. 

“He then said I had irritable bowel syndrome and gave me Buscopan, even though my bowel habits hadn’t changed. 

“I did mention cancer to my GP and he laughed and said ‘You are too young to have cancer’.”

Abdominal pain like Lauren experienced is considered one of the tell-tale signs associated with the deadly condition.

According to the NHS, the “main” symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Persistent blood in your poo (happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit)
  • Persistent change in your bowel habit (having to poo more and your poo may also become more runny)
  • Persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort (always caused by eating)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Significant unintentional weight loss.

The health service recommends seeing a GP if you have any of these symptoms for three weeks or more.

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While Lauren’s pain was unbearable, she kept getting the same answer from different experts – irritable bowel syndrome. 

It wasn’t until December, when she was celebrating Christmas at her mum’s house in Surrey, that the pain became so bad she started throwing up.

Lauren said: “My mum lives opposite St Helier hospital in Carshalton Surrey so I said ‘I’m going to walk over and see what they say there’. 

“I was sent up to CT where they found the tumour and I was operated on that night.

“The surgeon said I wouldn’t have lasted another 24 hours as my bowel was on the verge of perforating!”

Following the surgery that removed 22 cancerous lymph nodes, Lauren had to undergo eight sessions of chemotherapy and then five sessions of radiotherapy.

She added: “My life has changed immensely since my diagnosis. I’ve been unable to return to work due to the neuropathy in my feet. 

“I have bad health anxiety now, every twinge I get I worry about. I also suffer from depression, I’m definitely not the person I was before physically or mentally.

“I am thankful though to the Royal Marsden for their incredible work, for saving my life with their pioneering treatment and enabling me to see my children grow up and I will be forever grateful to them.”

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