As with many cancers, a Sheffield bowel cancer oncologist can provide outstanding treatment for the condition, but their skills and expertise are just part of the equation in fighting the disease.
The key with all cancers is early diagnosis and this was a point made by ‘BowelBabe’ campaigner Dame Deborah James, who died last year aged 40, six years after her own diagnosis.
Her story has been documented in the BBC programme BowelBabe in Her Own Words, and while much of the media coverage has focused on aspects such as her relationship with her children following the diagnosis, it is her advice on spotting symptoms that may be most pertinent.
Highlighting this, The Independent quoted her commenting: “Find a life worth enjoying; take risks; love deeply; have no regrets; and always, always have rebellious hope. And finally, check your poo – it could just save your life.”
The last part of that statement was something she was happy to emphasise, much as it is a topic many would not want to think too much about. Whether turning up dressed as a poo or simply talking about it while out campaigning, she hammered home the message that this is where the first warning signs can come from.
According to the NHS, common symptoms include blood in faeces or bleeding from the anus, but also bloating, fatigue, a feeling of needing to defecate despite having just done so, and unusual frequency of toilet trips. Those who get checked out after experiencing these symptoms will have a better chance of early diagnosis.
With around 45 people a day dying from the disease in the UK and 43,000 diagnoses a year, there are many who have suffered the same fate as Dame Deborah. But with greater awareness and early treatment by skilled oncologists, this number can be greatly reduced.