Beating bowel cancer together

Download our brand new symptoms diary

Wednesday 6 February 2019

We have collaborated with one of our supporters, Beth Purvis, to launch a symptoms diary for people that are worried about their bowel habits.

Beth was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer at 37 years old. The main symptoms she experienced were constipation and diarrhoea with significant bleeding from her bottom. Her GP put it down to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), but Beth believes if she was keeping a diary of her symptoms her GP would have taken her seriously and referred her for further testing sooner. She may have been diagnosed at an earlier stage when treatment has the best chance of working and a greater chance of survival.

The symptoms diary, pioneered by Beth and supported by Coloplast, aims to help keep track of a person’s symptoms before they visit their GP. This will give a good indication to their doctor whether they need further tests. Patients may not remember all their symptoms during the short appointment so having something written down can be useful. 

Every year almost 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK, making it the fourth most common cancer and second biggest cancer killer. However it shouldn’t be because it is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early. Although bowel cancer is more common in the over 50s it can affect people of all ages, more than 2,500 people under 50 are diagnosed with the disease in the UK every year.

Beth Purvis says: “I spoke to my GP two years before my diagnosis but was told that it was probably IBS. They just told me that I should try and live with it if I could but to come back if my symptoms got worse. I was in so much pain that I went to A&E and was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer.

“I had surgery to remove the tumour followed by chemotherapy for six months, but suffered from severe damage to my nerves, which has still not gone away. The following year a routine scan revealed spots on my lungs and I’m now diagnosed at stage four and have been told I’m now considered incurable. I have had surgery on my lungs to remove the tumours and I’m back on chemotherapy in the hope that the treatment will prevent further spread and keep the cancer at bay to extend my life.

“I hope this symptoms diary will help to either rule out bowel cancer or that a person will be diagnosed with the disease early when treatment has the best chance of working.”

Lauren Wiggins, Director of Services at Bowel Cancer UK, says: “We’re delighted to work with Beth on this symptoms diary. It’s for people that are worried about their symptoms and want to keep track of them before they visit their GP. Most people with bowel symptoms don’t have bowel cancer, but if you have one or more symptoms, or if things just don’t feel right, visit your GP with your completed symptoms diary.”

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