- A woman had just given birth in 2019 when she was told that she has terminal bowel cancer, something her doctors misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome.
- She had several rounds of treatment and even “beat” the cancer, but in January, she found out the disease had spread.
- Many bowel cancer, or colorectal cancer, symptoms are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome, so make sure to consult with your doctor.
She had several rounds of treatment and even “beat” the cancer, but in January, she found out the disease had spread. Her prognosis is just a few years — with or without treatment. Now, she’s speaking out about her experience.Read More
Claire’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosis
When Gunn started to notice symptoms, she visited her general practitioner, seeking a diagnosis and some relief. Her doctor believed she had irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. They sent her home with medication.
But that wasn’t the case. “I was misdiagnosed with IBS,” Gunn tells the Manchester Evening News. Gunn’s medication had little effect; her symptoms persisted, so she again visited her general practitioner.
“The GP told me, ‘We can’t work out what’s wrong with you,’” she tells the Manchester-based newspaper. “They supplied me with a load of different tablets; they probably didn’t help.”
“I went to my GP with a really achy leg one day,” she continues, “and the doctor said, ‘We’ll have to get you to hospital.’ The doctors thought it may have been something to do with my appendix.”
But her symptoms had nothing to do with her appendix. “Then they (doctors) realized it had been perforated and burst,” she says. “The cancer had actually gone through my appendix and my bowel had to be removed. I was diagnosed with bowel cancer when my daughter was four months old.”
“When I woke up, the bag was still there and I thought, ‘Oh no, what’s happened?’” she says. “The doctors found out the cancer had spread to my gallbladder and liver. I had to have more treatment, chemotherapy again.”
She tells the Evening News that she’s now in “limbo” — just as she was in limbo with an irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis — as she waits for her doctors to decide whether she’s a good candidate for a “radical” treatment involving more surgery and chemotherapy. The type of treatment remains unknown.
If she qualifies, she could have five years to live. If not, her prognosis is one to three years.
Regardless of whether she has the operation, it will only prolong her life; she’s been told that her cancer is incurable — terminal.
Understanding Bowel Cancer
Bowel cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, is the third most common cancer affecting men and women in the United States. It also kills more Americans each year than every other form of cancer except lung cancer. (In the U.K., where Gunn lives, bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death, according to Cancer Research UK, accounting for 10% of all cancer deaths.)
Many symptoms of bowel cancer are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome, so make sure to consult with your doctor.
Dr. Paul Oberstein, director of the Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Program at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet a few common symptoms of the disease:
- Change in bowel movements — sudden changes to the size, consistency or caliber of stool
- Change in stool color — bright red or black stool is a sign that an individual should seek medical attention
- Pain in the abdomen — unusual discomfort or bloating of the stomach. In the case of women, pain isn’t related to the menstrual cycle.
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss — rapid drop in weight that isn’t the result of diet or exercise
- Anemia — individuals who feel a general sense of malaise or faintness, or are constantly tired or weak much more than usual may want to consult a doctor.
Contributing: Chris Spargo