Mum's bowel cancer was dismissed by doctors as heartburn for a year

A MUM’S bowel cancer was dismissed by doctors for a year after her stomach problems were initially put down to heartburn.

Pauline Worthington,  was diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2019, after spending nearly a year going back and forth to her GP.

The 42-year-old said: "I didn’t have the common symptoms of bowel cancer at the start, I had acid reflux where it was like a build-up of heartburn in my stomach and food wasn’t settling properly.

"I was given tablets for the symptoms when I went to the GP, but things started getting progressively worse until I started noticing blood in my stool.”

Pauline, from Dundonald in Northern Ireland, said it was a “constant” back and forth with the GP, who said she probably had haemorrhoids.

Despite these suspicions, they never examined her to confirm their suspicions.

Eventually, after abnormalities were found in her stool sample, Pauline demanded a referral to see a specialist at the Ulster Independent Clinic.

"Only once seen by the specialist did things start moving very quickly,” she said.

“A number of tests were carried out within a couple of weeks, one of these being a colonoscopy which showed growths in my bowel and led to my first operation in December 2019 where I had a bowel resection."

However, just a few weeks after her diagnosis, the mum-of-two was told that her cancer had spread, Belfast Live reported.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

  1. Bleeding

There are several possible causes of bleeding from your bottom, of blood in your poo.

Bright red blood could come from swollen blood vessels, haemorrhoids or piles, in your back passage.

Dark red or black blood could come from your bowel or stomach.

Blood in your stools is one of the key signs of bowel cancer, so it's important to mention it to your doctor so they can investigate.

2. Change in loo habits

It's important to tell your GP if you have noticed any changes in your bowel habits, that lasts three weeks or longer.

It's especially important if you have also noticed signs of blood in your poo.

You might notice you need to go to the loo more often, you might have looser stools or feel like you're not going enough or fully emptying your bowels.

Don't be embarrassed, your GP will have heard a lot worse! Speak up and get it checked.

3. Weight loss

This is less common than the other symptoms, but an important one to be aware of. If you've lost weight and don't really know why, it's worth mentioning to your GP.

You may not feel like eating, feel sick, bloated and not hungry.

4. Feeling tired

Bowel cancer that causes bleeding can cause a lack of iron in the body – anaemia.
If you develop anaemia you're likely to feel tired and your skin might look pale.

5. Pain or lump

As with lots of other forms of cancer, a lump or pain can be a sign of bowel cancer.

It's most likely you'll notice a pain or lump in your stomach or back passage.

See your GP if it doesn't go away, or if it affects how you eat or sleep.

Pauline claims that her age was one of the reasons that her concerns weren't taken seriously.

Bowel cancer was typically associated with older patients, which means referrals or tests to detect it are not common. 

Pauline commenced treatment at the Belfast City Hospital Bridgewater Clinic, in February last year.

Just weeks later, she received good news – her tumours had been reducing, and in April, she was told there had been no recurrence in her bowel or shrinkage in her liver.

This meant Pauline could undergo a liver resection to remove the cancerous spots, which she did in June.

After the op, she was told the surgery had been successful, but just seven weeks later, there was another blow.

The cancer had returned on Pauline's liver – meaning she needed to start a chemotherapy regime, with treatment every two weeks.

She was now on a mission to raise as much awareness about the “silent killer” to try to help others, especially those who were under 50.

“Bowel Cancer is the second biggest killer in the UK but it doesn’t have to be,” she said.

“It is very curable if discovered early.”

Pauline was planning to take part in her second walk for Bowel Cancer UK We Walk Together in June – which will see her walk five miles in an effort to raise money and awareness for the charity.

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