James Battles Bowel Cancer
- BBC podcaster Deborah James is getting her twelfth surgery for bowel cancer.
- James was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in December 2015.
- A cancer diagnosis may sometimes lead to feelings of depression and grief, but counseling and medication can help.
The 39-year-old British mother of two has been an active advocate for her disease encouraging people to screen for the disease via her “No Butts” campaign. She’s affectionately known as “Bowel Babe” as a result.Read More
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What is Bowel Cancer?
James was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in December 2015. Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, says the NHS. Depending on where cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer, or colorectal cancer.
In the UK, where James lives, bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed. And it typically presents in people over the age of 60. And in the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women, excluding skin cancers. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that in 2021 there will be 104,270 new cases of colon cancer and 45,230 new cases of rectal cancer.
How to Cope with a Cancer Diagnosis
Coping with a diagnosis of bowel cancer, or any other type of cancer, can lead to depression and grief. In an earlier interview, Dr. Scott Irwin, a psychiatrist and director of the family support services program at Cedars-Sinai, explains the link between a cancer diagnosis and depression.
“Depression is a really interesting topic, because a lot of people assume that, oh, they have cancer. They must be depressed,” says Dr. Irwin. “That’s actually not true. 85% of patients do not get what would be considered a clinical depression. 15% do. For prescribing medications for depression in the context of cancer, I often try to choose medications with the lowest side effect profile.”
“If patients are getting hormonal therapy, there’s particular antidepressants that we can’t use, because they may lower the effectiveness of that hormonal therapy,” Dr. Irwin says. “And so we choose antidepressants that don’t impact the cancer care. Depression and stress make it harder to treat cancer, make it harder to tolerate the treatments.”