A Northampton mum, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer after noticing changes in her body, is backing Cancer Research UK’s new awareness campaign ‘Spot Cancer Sooner’.
Deborah James, who has a young daughter, had to have major surgery days after she was diagnosed with bowel cancer earlier this year – she’s now urging people to be more body aware to increase their chances of early diagnosis.
Deborah, 35, is highlighting the new campaign from Cancer Research UK which includes a TV advert that’s designed to show how easy it is for people to ignore changes in their body while they get on with their busy lives, the
ad shows a ‘lump’ in a road gradually getting bigger while office workers, mums, cyclists and road cleaners seem oblivious to the change and the disruption it causes.
Eventually the bump becomes so big that people have to walk around it but, despite this, still ignore it. Finally, in a poignant moment at the end, one person acknowledges its presence and the voice over says: “It’s easy to ignore something, especially when we’re busy. But spotting cancer sooner could save your life.”
Deborah, who lives in Northampton, is backing the campaign as her diagnosis came about after she noticed changes in her body and went to see her GP.
The HR worker was having fits of nausea and sickness that would last up to 10 hours. At first she thought it was linked to an existing condition called coeliac disease but went to her GP for help. Deborah was referred for further tests.
Deborah said: “Everyone knew it wasn’t normal for me to throw up like that but they didn’t know what the problem was. They thought there might be a blockage in my bowels causing the problem. I was sent for a colonoscopy and
by then I had a lump in my tummy I could feel.
“I was going to go on my own to get the test results but my step-mum insisted she come along. I honestly didn’t think it would be anything serious but we went in and the consultant said, ‘I’m sorry it’s bowel cancer.’ I just sat there saying, ‘I’m sorry I don’t know what you’re saying.’ He had to draw it for me because it was such a shock.”
Three days after her diagnosis Deborah was in excruciating pain and was admitted for an emergency operation.
The operation was a success but the cancer had spread to some of her lymph nodes which meant Deborah needed a course of chemotherapy. She is in treatment and has been told her final session will take place in January.
Deborah said: “I really want other people to realise how important it is to know your body and to put any embarrassment or fears aside and get checked out. The GP will have seen it all before so go and talk to them. It could
be nothing but if it is cancer, the sooner you can get diagnosed the better.
“You never think it will happen to you, bowel cancer especially. In theory I’m too young to have it but that shows you have to be persistent if something is wrong. Go and see your GP because it does happen to people under 50 – cancer doesn’t discriminate you can get it at any age.”
Every year, around 24,500 people in the East Midlands are given the devastating news that they have the disease.
Danielle Glavin, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the region, said: “Deborah is a fantastic ambassador for our Spot Cancer Sooner campaign. She knows from personal experience just how important early diagnosis is.
“Like most cancers, bowel cancer mostly affects people over 50 but as Deborah’s story shows anyone can develop cancer and that’s why it’s important to recognise what is normal for you. We hope the adverts will prompt anyone who notices an unusual or persistent change to their body to go and see their GP.”
One in two people born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Survival has doubled since the early 1970s.
Diagnosing cancer earlier is one of the most powerful ways to beat it. The chances of successful treatment are higher if the disease is found at an early stage.
Cancer Research UK believes that no one should be diagnosed too late to have treatment that might save their life. The charity is working in partnership with GPs and other health professionals to help diagnose cancer earlier and pilot new approaches, as well as leading and evaluating awareness campaigns to help people recognise possible symptoms of the disease.
Danielle added: “Cancer Research UK’s ‘Spot Cancer Sooner’ campaign encourages people to reflect on their own behaviour and empowers them to be more in touch with what’s normal for their bodies.
“There are many possible signs of cancer, it’s not just about lumps. What our new campaign aims to bring home to people is that if it’s not normal for you, it’s important to get it checked out.
“It may well not be anything serious, in which case getting checked will give peace of mind. But if it does turn out to be cancer, finding it early could make all the difference. You can also pick up the phone to one of our Cancer Research UK information nurses and discuss any concerns confidentially.”
For more information visit www.cruk.org/spotcancersooner or ring Cancer Research UK’s information nurses on 0808 800 4040.