“If something feels different or if you have unusual pain, then get it checked, as it could’ve saved Amy’s life.” This warning is Emily’s message to the public in an attempt to bring awareness to bowel cancer, a terrible disease that made her sister Amy Redhead terminally ill and is now spending her final days at Primrose Hospice in Bromsgrove, England.
It all started a few months ago when Amy suffered abdominal pain and was sent to get some tests done after she found a lump in her stomach. Unexpectedly, they gave her the prognosis that an aggressive form of cancer has spread to her liver.
With a firm decision, Amy decided to opt out of doing chemotherapy so she can live her final days as comfortable as possible. She’s now sharing her journey on social media to warn people about bowel cancer and how it can quickly sneak on up on you like it did on her.
Amy was diagnosed with colitis-inflammation on her inner lining of the intestine at the age of 11. She was warned back then that she is at a higher risk of developing bowel cancer and unfortunately, this became her reality at the age of 28.
With her remaining days at a hospice, she and her family decided to share her photos from the past few days on social media to show others the physical impact that bowel cancer can have on the body. Emily said, “we don’t know whether she first blames her symptoms on her colitis, but we want people to be aware of any changes if you have the condition.”
Signs and Symptoms of Bowel Cancer
Sometimes called colon or rectal cancer, bowel cancer is the growth of abnormal cancerous cells in the lower part of the colon that connects the anus to the large bowel. (1)
It’s sometimes difficult to detect because the main symptoms commonly occur in people who do not have it. These symptoms include blood from the rectum, changes in bowel habit, and abdominal pain. For example, blood from the rectum is often caused by hemorrhoids, changes in bowel habit and abdominal pain can come from something bad that you ate.
People who are diagnosed with bowel cancer often experience a combination of the symptoms such as: (2)
- irregular bowel habits with blood in their stools (feces)
- changes in bowel habit together with abdominal pain
- blood in their stools with other hemorrhoid symptoms such as soreness, discomfort, pain, itching or a lump hanging down outside the back passage
- abdominal pain provoked by eating
The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and don’t necessarily make you feel ill. To learn more about treatments for bowel cancer, it is crucial that you visit your general practitioner GP when you notice signs and symptoms.
Your GP will most likely conduct a simple examination of your tummy and bottom to make sure you have no lumps. They may also arrange for some blood work to check for iron deficiency anaemia, which can indicate if there’s any bleeding in your bowel. Sometimes, they may recommend to get a simple test in the hospital to ensure there are no serious cause for your symptoms.
Who’s at Risk
In the UK where Amy resides, bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer with around 40,000 people diagnosed every year, and on average, 1 in every 20 people will develop it in their lifetime. (3)
As for the US, bowel cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women. It’s expected to cause about 50,000 deaths in 2018. (4)
It’s not known exactly what causes bowel cancer, but almost 9 out of 10 people with bowel cancer are over the age of 60. With that said, younger people can still be affected, Amy Redhead being a prime example. There are also other things to consider that can increase your risk. These include:(5)
- diet – a diet high in red or processed meats and low in fiber can increase your risk
- weight – bowel cancer is more common in people who are overweight and obese
- exercise – being inactive increase risk of bowel cancer
- alcohol and smoking – high alcohol intake and smoking increases your chances of bowel cancer
- family history – having a close relative who had bowel cancer put you at a higher risk of developing it.
No one is exempted from developing bowel cancer. Amy’s life is a testimony to that. She was only 28 years old and her sister Emily adds, “Amy was fit and enjoying the gym just weeks before she was diagnosed.” Her lifestyle went against the grain of the usual symptoms of bowel cancer, and yet it still affected her.
Her story serves as a lesson to make cancer prevention a big part of our lifestyle starting with what we eat. To learn more about how to activate cancer-preventing genes, here are 20 foods you should eat as much as possible.