Pat's Newspaper Article

As this is difficult to read Phil Jennings has kindly sent me the original newspaper article so that I can transcribe Pat's story.


In this week's Opinion,Patricia Jennings shares her battle with bowel cancer and the importance of a speedy diagnosis.

In early 2007, I saw a locum who stood in for my GP, who was on leave.

    A medicines and health review by the new locum, eventually lead to a discovery of blood in my stools.

    This along with the fact that my mother had died of bowel cancer, developed at a similar age, lead to a stool test and an urgent colonoscopy to investigate for bowel cancer.

    The colonoscopy showed no sign of bowel cancer. I was relieved and reassured. A colonoscopy is the gold standard in bowel cancer detection.

    A few weeks later, I underwent a hip replacement. Unfortunately , I developed a serious infection called Clostridium Difficile immediately following the operation.

    I was told that a course of antibiotics for a chest infection, taken in the weeks prior to this surgey, was the reason C Diff had developed now. I was treated effectively and returned home.

    Four months exactly to the date of the C Diff infection, I developed volatile and persistent diarrhoea which seemed to have come out of the blue.

    I went straight to the surgery as I was very concerned. This GP (a different one), said it was probably antibiotic-related, as they saw that, in the weeks prior, I had a course of antibiotics for a urine infection.

    This was the cause, they thought, I was dubious, I pointed to the C Diff episode, from four months earlier and the GP said they would organise a stool test to rule out C Diff.

    I returned after a week to discover the results of the stool test and to find out what the cause of the continuing diarrhoea was.

    My original GP was now working back at the surgery after prelonged leave.

    The stool test was unclear, but had shown a trace of the bacterial infection salmonella. A retest was necessary to establish a bacterial infection.

    I took a planned two week holiday and returned immediately to the surgey for the results.

    The GP said the retest showed no bacterial infection whatsoever.

    Over the next few weeks and months, I visited the GP with abdominal pains and infections as well as nausea and indegestion.

    I had a MRI scan, on the pelvis, for an unrelated condition which proved normal.

    In desperation, I saw the GP after ten months of continuous symptoms and asked for an investigation for bowel cancer.

    I was diagnosed as Stage 4 terminal cancer, having a rectal tumour. Cancer was well established on the liver too. At one time it was in the lungs also.

    I underwent chemotherapy three times and have had five cancer related operations.

    What I have learnt from this, is that diagnosing bowel cancer can be difficult, especially if protocols and guidelines of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, in bowel cancer diagnosis are not adhered to.

    If blood tests, rectal and abdominal examinations and " safety net " systems to review persisting symtoms in patients are not carried out, invariably cancer will not be ruled out.

    " Red Flag " symptoms persisting between a few, and up to six weeks and over, should always be referred and investigated for bowel cancer urgently.

    These simple symptoms can mean nothing serious. Unfortunately they too can be the symptoms of bowel cancer which kills more than 15,000 patients a year.

   Only around 10% are diagnosed at Stage 1, when most are totally curable.

    Around 90% are diagnosed when the cancer has already spread, making treatments and cures less successful.

    Colonoscopies miss 10% of all bowel cancerss.

    Stool tests have a poorer success rate.

    My GP was not aware of my clear colonoscopy and stool test, according to all evidence, but was not alarmed at my symptoms.

    Painkillers can cause constipation. Scans may miss tumours. Retrospectively, a Stage 3 tumour was recognised on the scan.

    It only took four months from the onset of diarrhoea, to reach this advanced stage. 




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