Mum went to doctor five times before cancer found

Lynn Angus is backing a campaign highlighting poor diagnosis of bowel cancer. Picture: Colin Hattersley
Lynn Angus is backing a campaign highlighting poor diagnosis of bowel cancer. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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A NEW mum has told how she had to visit her doctor five times before being told she might have bowel cancer.

Lynn Angus, who was 33 at the time, went to her GP surgery worried about her weight after shedding more than two stone in a few months.

But the doctors dismissed her sudden weight loss as “dietary” and said it was related to breastfeeding her seven-month-old son, Tom.

It was only after several visits and six months of persevering that she was finally referred to have a colonoscopy and the grim discovery was made.

Now 40, Lynn, from Mountcastle, is backing a campaign by Bowel Cancer UK to highlight the poor diagnosis of the cancer in people under 50.

She was rushed into Western General for emergency surgery near Christmas in 2005 when her bowel became obstructed.

Lynn then had months of chemotherapy before getting the all-clear, but had to undergo further surgery last year to avoid a recurrence.

She said: “It was a massive shock to the system, you just don’t believe it will happen to you and especially when you’re young.

“My husband Stephen and both our mums were fantastic in helping look after Tom and really got me through it.

“You hear about people getting breast cancer and cervical cancer when you’re that age but not bowel cancer. I was lucky it hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes or anything because it wasn’t an early diagnosis.” The campaign has been launched as a new report by the charity revealed a shocking picture of delayed diagnosis, failures in screening and meeting support needs amongst younger bowel cancer patients.

The “Never Too Young” research reveals that almost half of women, compared with ten per cent of men, either saw their GP more than five times before being referred, or were diagnosed as an emergency before being referred.

Deborah Alsina, CEO of Bowel Cancer UK, said early diagnosis was key to successful treatment of the disease.

She said: “It is simply unacceptable that younger bowel cancer patients are experiencing delays in diagnosis because they are considered too young when clearly the statistics prove that, whilst rare, it can and does happen.

“We must ensure that bowel cancer is ruled out much earlier in the diagnostic process. We must also ensure that those at greatest risk, for example, people with a genetic condition, receive the screening they need to detect any changes early.”

A national campaign was launched last month to encourage screening in the over-50s with Lothian lagging behind the rest of Scotland in terms of uptake.

The latest statistics showed fewer than half of those eligible – 48.9 per cent – take part in the bowel cancer screening programme after being sent testing kits, compared with a national average of 51 per cent.

But Lynn thinks this should be extended to ensure younger patients are diagnosed early.

She said: “I think everyone should be able to get a screening kit and do something to help themselves.”

One of the most common cancers

BOWEL cancer affects the lower part of the digestive system and is the third most common type of cancer in men and the second most common in women.

Two-thirds of tumours develop in the colon or large bowel and about one third are in the rectum or anus.

The condition is rare in people under 40 and almost 85 per cent of cases are diagnosed in over 65-year-olds. Cancer of the rectum is a little more common in men. One in 15 men and one in 19 women in the UK develops bowel cancer. Bowel cancer isn’t easy to treat, mainly as it is often detected once well-established and after it has spread beyond the bowel.

Estimates suggest that more than 90 per cent of cases can be successfully treated if they are detected early.