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I was diagnosed with stage-four bowel cancer aged 25 – I developed a tell-tale symptom but I thought nothing of it

Bowel cancer is the third most prevalent cancer in the UK, with alarming figures indicating a mystery rise in cases among those under 50. This worrying trend has baffled experts and underscores the importance of early detection and awareness.

Ellie’s Story: A Warning to All

Ellie Wilcock, now 27 and from Peterborough, first experienced sudden abdominal pain at 25, attributing it to a urinary tract infection (UTI). Having dealt with UTIs before, she thought little of it. However, the actual cause was much more severe—a stage-four bowel cancer diagnosis that kills nearly 17,000 Brits annually.

The Misdiagnosis and Discovery

Ellie’s journey began with extreme abdominal pain, a common symptom of bowel cancer. Initially suspecting a UTI, she consulted her GP when the pain persisted. Negative UTI tests and blood tests showing inflammation markers led to an ultrasound, but her worsening condition took her to A&E, where scans revealed an unknown mass. Initially thought to be an ovarian cyst, a biopsy later confirmed it was cancer that had spread to her liver, ovaries, and peritoneum.

The Emotional and Physical Battle

Diagnosed in February 2022, Ellie found herself in disbelief, never expecting cancer at such a young age. Throughout her treatment, she found solace in the story of Dame Deborah James, also known as the “Bowelbabe,” who raised significant awareness about the disease before her passing at 40. Ellie’s treatment involved multiple surgeries and intensive chemotherapy, and by August 2022, she was declared free of the disease.

Rising Rates Among the Young

While bowel cancer predominantly affects those aged 85 to 89 in the UK, there is a noticeable increase in cases among younger adults. Experts are particularly concerned about this trend, especially following high-profile cases like Kate Middleton’s recent diagnosis. The primary symptoms of bowel cancer include changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, bloating, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue. Early detection is crucial, and anyone experiencing symptoms for three weeks or more should consult their GP.

Preventative Measures and Ongoing Research

More than half of bowel cancer cases in the UK are preventable, with risk factors including low fiber intake, high red meat consumption, and obesity. The Bowelbabe Fund, established in memory of Dame Deborah James, projects an increase in cases from 42,800 annually to 47,700 by 2040. This fund has raised £13 million, supporting various research projects and initiatives aimed at combating bowel cancer and improving early detection methods.

Cancer Research UK: Continuing the Legacy

Cancer Research UK emphasizes the importance of ongoing research and awareness. Chief Executive Michelle Mitchell expressed honor in continuing Deborah’s legacy through funding pioneering research and awareness activities. With bowel cancer cases on the rise, the organization remains committed to supporting work that makes a significant difference for those affected by cancer and their families.

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