WORRIES ME TO THINK PEOPLE ARE TOO SCARED TO SEE A GP'
By kind permission of the
Leicester Mercury 25 April 2005
Bowel Cancer is one
of the UK's biggest but least talked about killers. HANNAH DAVIES
speaks to one Leicestershire man about his battle to beat the disease
When doctors told Mick Mason he had bowel cancer,
he was well prepared. The disease runs in his family through a faulty
gene named Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), and his chances
of suffering from it were so high he had already had surgery to
remove his bowel.
The preventative operation came too late - he was
devastated to discover that the cancer had already taken hold. That
was in 1999. Chemotherapy followed, and now, five years on, Mick
has the all-clear. In fact, it is now one year since he overcame
As part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, he is
keen to highlight symptoms of the disease and urge people to seek
advice if they are concerned. It is rare that bowel cancer is caused
by the FAP gene, and is more commonly a disease associated with
poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking.
But it's embarrassment that stops people visiting
a GP. Even though Mick, 62, knew he was at risk, he still delayed
going to the doctor a year after symptoms, such as blood in his
He says: "It is
worrying to think that people are too scared to go to a GP.
"If someone does have symptoms, then it doesn't necessarily
mean they have bowel cancer, but it's worth getting checked
to be sure.
"If you cut your
finger, you put a plaster on it, but if it doesn't heal, you
would see a doctor, and the same should be true with cancer.
leave getting treatment until it's too late."
Bosses at the national charity Beating Bowel Cancer
(BBC) are also urging people to get educated about the disease,
which can affect any part of the colon or rectum that forms most
of the large intestine or bowel.
There are more than 35,000 cases of bowel cancer
diagnosed in the UK each year - making it the second-biggest cancer
killer after lung cancer. In Leicestershire it is the third most
common cancer, with more than 400 people diagnosed each year.
The UK has some of the lowest survival rates in
Europe - about 50 per cent of people die from the disease. This
need not be the case. If caught early enough the survival rate can
be 90 per cent.
Charity spokeswoman Tara MacDowe says: "People
don't realise how many of us will be affected by bowel cancer but
it's actually one in 18 . "There is a reluctance to talk about
bottoms and bowels. We need to banish taboos associated with bowel
cancer, as we've done with breast cancer.
"The sooner bowel cancer is diagnosed the
higher the chance of survival - if you are concerned don't be embarrassed,
get it checked out."
A recent survey revealed almost one in five bowel
cancer patients waited more than six months before seeing a doctor.
Lack of knowledge about the disease remains a key problem. The study
also ahowed that 55 per cent of people could not name a symptom
of bowel cancer, such as a lump in the abdomen.
Doctors advise people who have these symptoms or
notice any other change in their bowel habit for more than six weeks
to see their GP.
Meanwhile, Mick is now looking to the future. His
sister and three children have also had tests for the FAP gene,
and his daughter - who tested positive - has had her bowel removed
as a preventative measure.
Mick has launched a website to raise awareness
of the FAP gene. He says: "I don't say I'm cured, because I
don't want to tempt fate, but I am fairly positive the cancer won't
come back. "Some days, I still worry about the fact that it
might return, but most of the time I look on the bright side of
life, and the website means I can bring the disease to the attention
* More information on bowel cancer is available
through the BBC charity's symptoms hotline, on 0870 24 24 870. and
at the following websites -
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