Bowel cancer 'never crossed my mind' before diagnosis

Bowel cancer 'never crossed my mind' before diagnosis
From BBC - February 5, 2018

Caroline Richards was just 34 when she found out she had bowel cancer.

She thought symptoms such as a swollen belly and blood in her stools were related to the birth of her son Danny.

But when she went to the doctor, they immediately found a tumour, with her adding: "cancer never crossed my mind."

Charity Bowel Cancer UK wants improvements on the "alarming" number waiting too long for tests. The Welsh Government said more people are being seen within target times.

Two months after her first visit to her doctor, Caroline, from Bridgend, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.

"At that point I was told I had 18 months to live. I was told 'this is terminal' and the chemo was just palliative," she said.

That was four years and two major operations ago.

Now a charity has called for action to improve the early diagnosis of bowel cancer, saying the survival rates in Wales are "completely unacceptable".

Bowel Cancer UK has pulled together a report with a spotlight on issues in Wales.

The charity wants the Welsh Government to create targets for improvements.

Figures out last autumn showed cancer survival rates are improving but specialists said Wales still had a "long way to go" to match the best in Europe.

It ranked 25th out of 29 for bowel cancer survival, below Slovenia, Portugal and Estonia.

Experts in Wales have been looking at lessons learned in countries such as Denmark, and pilot schemes have started in the Cwm Taf and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board areas for GPs to refer patients with less obvious symptoms to diagnostic hubs - with all tests being done in one visit.

Getting patients to see doctors earlier is one issue, but Bowel Cancer UK said endoscopy units in hospitals are struggling to cope with demand for tests.

Bowel Cancer UK points to latest waiting time figures which showed more than 1,800 people were waiting longer than the eight week target set by the Welsh Government for colonoscopies or flexi-sigmoidoscopies, which can detect bowel cancer.

About 15% of patients - more than 500 - waited more than 14 weeks for a colonoscopy in November.

A further 18% (478) were waiting the same period for a flexi-sigmoidoscopy.

The charity called this "alarming".

'Very important'


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