5 red flag bowel cancer symptoms led Deborah James to discovering she had the disease
There has been an outpouring of sadness for Deborah James who has now raised more than £3.5m after confirming she is receiving end-of-life care for bowel cancer. The teacher has sought to raise awareness and understanding of the illness since she was diagnosed in 2016, through writing, broadcasting and campaigning.
The former deputy headteacher, who has presented the BBC Podcast 'You, Me and the Big C', wrote in her blog in January 2017 of the symptoms that led her to tell a doctor she might have bowel cancer. She was 35 at the time, but despite being a vegetarian, a non smoker and not being overweight, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer, Wales Online reports.
Deborah, who wrote a best-selling book called 'F*** you cancer', said she was initially told by her GP she must have IBS because her blood tests and stool sample came back fine. "And yet I was still losing weight, passing blood, going what felt like 100 times per day and feeling shattered. I knew there was something wrong with me," she wrote.
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It was only when she paid privately for a colonoscopy that her "ugly 5.5cm cancerous, ulcerated tumour" was discovered and her treatment began. Deborah, a mum of two children, Hugo and Eloise, who were 9 and 7 when she was first diagnosed, said that she had first noticed a change in her bowel habits two years earlier but was told that she was likely to be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer. It affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and the rectum, and mainly develops from pre-cancerous growths called polyps. Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK and there are currently around 268,000 people living with it in the UK today.
Deborah's symptoms were among the most common signs of bowel cancer.
What are the main symptoms of bowel cancer?
The symptoms of bowel cancer can include:
- Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
- A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in your tummy
Most people with these symptoms don't have bowel cancer. Other health problems can cause similar symptoms. But if you have one or more of these, or if things just don't feel right, go to see your GP.
Sometimes a tumour can block the bowel, causing sudden strong pains in the stomach area, bloating and feeling or being sick. This is called a bowel obstruction. You may also be unable to empty your bowels or pass wind. If you think you have a blocked bowel, see your GP straight away or go to a hospital accident and emergency department.