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‘You are never too young!’ Woman, 38, diagnosed with bowel cancer shares her first symptom

Charlotte Madden from Lancashire got the diagnosis she had long feared in 2021. In February of that year, she was told she had bowel cancer at the age of 38. The diagnosis came a mere month after she first spotted a red flag.

“I knew there was something wrong when I noticed blood in my stool,” Charlotte told Express.co.uk.

“I was concerned enough to get checked out. I knew there were lots of reasons for having blood but there was something in the back of my mind that made me do this quickly.”

Charlotte had reason to be concerned. She lost her parents to cancer a couple of years ago so she was acutely aware of the importance of getting an early diagnosis.

“This prompted me to make an appointment with my GP,” Charlotte said.

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The diagnosis was heartbreaking for Charlotte. She thought about her children’s upcoming birthdays, and wondered how many more she would be around to see.

Never lose hope

Thankfully, Charlotte is proving responsive to treatment.

“I’m doing well, my lymph nodes were all clear and so I didn’t need chemo. I’m being monitored regularly and waiting on a colonoscopy.”

Charlotte is keeping herself busy in the meantime: “I’m currently training for the London marathon which I’m running with my sister in aid of bowel cancer UK.”

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What message would she like to communicate to others?

“My message to anyone is get checked out if they are worried and do it quickly.”

She continued: “An early diagnosis can make a huge difference in treatment and outcome.”

Charlotte added: “Check your stools regularly and remember you are never too young to get cancer!”

Her advice is echoed across the medical community. Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “After reading Charlotte’s story, I would strongly encourage everyone to check their poo and if something has changed or doesn’t look right to you, then don’t wait – contact your doctor.

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“Bowel cancer is the UK’s fourth most common cancer, and the second biggest cancer killer but it doesn’t have to be this way.

“It’s treatable if caught early and by going straight to your GP it’s possible to rule out bowel cancer first and fast.”

According to Ms Edwards, the key symptoms to look out for include bleeding from your bottom, blood in your poo, a persistent and unexplained change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness for no obvious reason and a pain or lump in your tummy.

“Most people with these don’t have bowel cancer, but if you experience one or more of them, you should visit your doctor straight away.”

According to the expert, they will want to see you and may ask you to do a Faecal Immunochemical Test, known as FIT, at home.

“It’s very easy to do and will help your GP to decide whether your symptoms need further investigation.”

How to reduce your risk

It’s important to note that there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of bowel cancer.

Although, as Charlotte’s story illustrates, the disease can strike anyone at any time.

The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown. However, research has shown several factors may make you more likely to develop it.

A large body of evidence suggests a diet high in red and processed meat can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer.

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