JUST KNEW THEY HAD DIED. YOU DIDN'T TALK ABOUT WHY'
by Carol Burns - Leicester Mercury - 02 August 2004
Embarrassment is killing hundreds of people each year. Carol
Burns explains why
It was the family legacy that Mick Mason
dreaded receiving. His father had it, his auntie too. Mick
even went under the knife to try and shake it off, but to
no avail. The 61-year-old has bowel cancer, a disease that
can run in the family, and which has flourished through a
combination of embarrassment and secrecy.
It can be triggered by diet or lifestyle,
but it can also steal into your life as a genetic time bomb,
ushered into existence by a faulty gene named FAP, which means
the disease will be certain to manifest itself if left untreated.
Melton man Mick's chances of getting the disease were so high
he had surgery to remove his bowel in 1999 - only to find
out that the cancer had already started.
Around one per cent of the 35,000 cases of
bowel cancer in the UK each year are caused by the FAP gene
disorder. While the general public has a one in 50 risk of
bowel cancer, if you have the gene and you aren't treated,
experts say you have 100 per cent chance of getting bowel
For Mick, it was a question of luck that
he found out about the gene at all. "The older generation
didn't talk about cancer, certainly not bowel cancer,"
he says of his father, who had bowel surgery in his 70s. It
was only when he died a few years later and Mick saw his father's
death certificate that he discovered the truth. A chat with
members of the family then uncovered his aunt had died of
the disease in her 50s, and Mick soon had genetic testing
which revealed he too carried the gene.
"You just knew they had died, you didn't
talk about why. "Even now, there's a lot of people who
never got in touch, once they knew what it was. "A lot
of people don't like to talk about their backsides and things."
In May this year, the father of three
marked five years since he was diagnosed and no longer
has to go for regular check-ups. "I don't say I'm
cured," he says, refusing to tempt fate. "I
say I have got the all-clear."
Both his sister and three children
have now had tests for the disease, while an older brother
has decided not to have the test, but will wait and
see. Now, Mick has joined the Beating Bowel Cancer campaign
to get more people talking to save lives.
A survey earlier this year revealed almost
one in five bowel cancer patients waited more than six months
before going to doctor's. Bowel cancer is the third most common
cancer in Leicestershire, with more than 400 people diagnosed
with it each year. An estimated 90 per cent of cases could
be treated successfully if caught at an early stage - but
many people, often embarrassed to discuss their symptoms,
delay seeking medical advice.
Beating Bowel Cancer is a national charity
working to raise awareness of symptoms, promote early diagnosis
and encourage open access to treatment choice for those affected
More information on bowel cancer is available
through the charity's symptoms hotline, on 0870 24 24 870,
or from the website:
to top of page