‘Too young to have cancer’: 35-year-old woman develops bowel cancer after showing symptoms

Bowel cancer is often portrayed as a disease that occurs behind closed toilet doors. While telltale signs may appear when you choose number two, this is not always the case. Lauren Sack of Hertfordshire, who was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer at 35, knows this all too well.

Dr Sarah Mesilhy, a gastroenterologist at the Royal College of Physicians in the UK, told in a previous interview that rectal bleeding is often the first and most noticeable symptom of bowel cancer.

However, blood in your stool may not be the first red flag you’ve encountered.

In Lauren’s case, “severe” abdominal pain was a wake-up call, alerting the 35-year-old woman that something was wrong.

She spoke about bowel cancer in the UK: “My symptoms started in May 2018. I had severe abdominal pain that came and went, lasting for several days before returning a few weeks later.

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“I went to my therapist in May 2018. He said it was because of the contraceptive coil I had.

“I also had severe anemia, which he said was caused by my periods. I ended up going back and forth for months.

“Then he said I had irritable bowel syndrome and gave me Buscopan even though my stool had not changed.

“I mentioned cancer to my therapist and he laughed and said, ‘You’re too young to have cancer.’

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The abdominal pain that Lauren experienced is considered one of the telltale signs associated with the fatal condition.

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 (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 of these symptoms for three weeks or more.

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While Lauren’s pain was unbearable, she kept getting the same answer from different specialists – irritable bowel syndrome.

It wasn’t until December, when she was celebrating Christmas at her mom’s home in Surrey, that the pain became so severe that she began to vomit.

Lauren said: “My mom lives across from St. Helier’s Hospital in Carshalton, Surrey, so I said, ‘I’ll go over there and see what they say.’

“I was sent for a CT scan, where they found a tumor, and that night I was operated on.

“The surgeon said I wouldn’t have lasted another 24 hours as my bowel was on the verge of perforation!”

After surgery to remove 22 cancerous lymph nodes, Lauren had to undergo eight sessions of chemotherapy followed by five sessions of radiation therapy.

She added: “My life has changed a lot since I was diagnosed. I couldn’t get back to work because of the neuropathy in my legs.

“Now I’m in poor health, I worry about every bout of pain. I also suffer from depression, I am definitely not the person I used to be physically or mentally.

“However, I am grateful to Royal Marsden for their incredible work, for saving my life with their groundbreaking treatment and for allowing me to see my children grow, and I will be eternally grateful to them.”

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