‘I was in complete shock’: bowel cancer patient wasn’t too worried about his symptoms

Daniel Derry from the Cotswolds turned his life upside down after seeing his GP for minor symptoms. Even though cancer is deadly, the condition is often reluctant to rear its ugly head. Daniel, who has been diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer, knows this all too well.

The location of bowel cancer tumors means that symptoms usually occur in the abdomen.

From abdominal pain to loose stools, bowel cancer can present in a variety of ways.

In Daniel’s case, stomach problems were also the first symptom that sounded the alarm.

The man told Bowel Cancer UK: “In December 2019 I felt a little unwell, went to my GP and was told it was heartburn.

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“My wife was not overly impressed, and she convinced me to register with a new GP.

“[The new doctor] gave me candles that didn’t work. And by this point, I began to notice a small amount of blood in the stool.

“I wasn’t too worried as I thought it was hemorrhoids, but I went back to the GP and this time they referred me for a colonoscopy.”

Blood in the stool – regardless of volume – is considered one of the most common signs of bowel cancer.

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For example, a study published in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England found that rectal bleeding occurred in 89 percent of their participants.

According to the NHS, the “major” symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Persistent blood in the stool (occurs for no apparent reason or is due to a change in bowel habits)
  • Permanent changes in your bowel habits (you have to poop more and your stools may become more liquid)
  • Persistent pain in the lower abdomen (in the abdomen), bloating or discomfort (always caused by eating)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Significant unintentional weight loss.

The Health Service recommends that you see your GP if you have any symptoms of bowel cancer for three or more weeks.

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A colonoscopy revealed a tumor in Daniel’s abdomen. He said: “I was in total shock. I didn’t even have many symptoms.”

He was scheduled for surgery, which was not facilitated due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.

Daniel said: “Due to COVID-19, I had to have open surgery because there were no intensive care units. [intensive care unit] beds for keyhole surgery. I was completely scared.

“I don’t like hospitals; I try to avoid blood tests and definitely don’t like surgeries.”

The operation was followed by four rounds of chemotherapy to ensure that all cancer cells were killed.

Daniel added: “I was talking to a consultant about my lack of symptoms and he mentioned that people rarely show symptoms until they show up at a later stage.

“Because my tumor was located so low, I noticed the blood quite early, but if it was higher in the colon, it would have taken me much longer to notice any symptoms.”

Luckily, Daniel’s treatment went well and he can now “enjoy his marriage” and build a family.

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