These women are often diagnosed at a later stage of the disease, with tell-tale signs being wrongly dismissed as ‘pregnancy symptoms’ or left undetected by their doctor.
New Aussie mum Katie Warrent was only 28 when bowel cancer happened to her. She shares her story below to raise awareness this Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
“Our family have experienced more than our fair share of cancer.
In 1994, our lives were first touched by cancer. Mum, Ellen, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and shortly after our paternal grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. Our mother survived, and has recently celebrated 20 years cancer free. Our grandfather unfortunately lost his battle.
Seven years later, in 2002, our paternal grandmother was diagnosed with melanoma, and also lost her battle.
In 2008, our maternal grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer; he sadly lost his battle last year.
Unfortunately, our story with cancer does not end there.
In 2014, seven months after giving birth to my only child, I (the youngest of the three sisters – 28 years old), and after months of investigation, I was diagnosed with stage II bowel cancer.
Together with my young age and that no immediate family had been previously diagnosed with bowel cancer, none of the doctors tested me for bowel cancer. I had major surgery, followed by six months of chemotherapy. Just when we were hoping to get news of remission, I was diagnosed with a recurrence.
The very next day, Kristal (my eldest sister – 32) was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. Then Cassie (the middle sister – 30) was also diagnosed with breast cancer just five weeks later.
Bowel cancer claims the lives of 77 Australians every week. It is the second most common type of newly diagnosed cancer in Australia affecting both men and women almost equally and is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer.
Although it is more common in people over 50, the rate in younger people is increasing.
How it all began
So let’s go back in time, to August, 2013. Life was great! I had just had our beautiful daughter Abbygail.
After having Abby, my body bounced back, I had no after baby belly, or anything like that, I was extremely lucky with a smooth pregnancy and my body being better than before I had her.
About two to four weeks after having Abbygail I started noticing changes within my body. I was bloated, and constipated, the times I could go to the toilet I never felt like I was “finished”.
At my six week postpartum check-up (mid-September) with our beyond wonderful obstetrician, I mentioned to him the problems I was experiencing. We both thought it was just part of my body going back to pre-baby functioning, and he sent me home with laxatives stating “if you’re still experiencing these problems in a month come back to me” (fool me for not listening to him!!).
Needless to say, I was still experiencing these problems a month later. Over time, the symptoms seemed to worsen but when I stepped back into the GP’s office I was investigated for low iron levels, gynaecology issues, and other health issues. Everything, but bowel cancer.
After months of tests, investigations and misdiagnoses, and eventually, sheer persistence on my part, I went back to my wonderful OB/GYN, he listened and sent me for the right tests and an emergency colonoscopy which revealed I did in fact have bowel cancer.
In its early stages, bowel cancer often has no symptoms. But if you don’t feel like something’s right, however old you are, you should never be told by your doctor that you are too young.”
To read more about Katie’s story, click here to visit her blog.
June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. To learn more, donate or get involved, visit bowelcanceraustralia.org or contact Bowel Cancer Australia’s Helpline 1800 555 494.