Let me introduce myself, my name is Beth, I am 39 and have two small children, a husband and a menagerie of pets. I am also an incurable stage 4 Bowel Cancer patients diagnosed at the age of 37. I am super happy to see all the media coverage of the recent research highlighting the increase in young people diagnosed with Bowel Cancer, and when I say young people I mean those under 50.
The thing is though the reports have not even started to investigate the cause for this increase, they are literally just about the numbers. However, the research refers to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle as major factors which has been picked up by every single media channel – of course, because this is what they have been told. While I am happy to accept that diet and lifestyle may play a part, I cannot accept that this is the full and true picture.
I myself was definitely not overweight at 5ft 4” and 9st 8lb, I am far too fussy with food to eat processed or prepackaged stuff, I have to make everything from scratch so I know exactly what is in it – I would freak out if a stray onion or tomato made it into my dinner! I drink gallons of water, ride horses and am generally a very active, slim and healthy person. Yet I got Bowel Cancer and I got it young.
I am not the only young Bowel Cancer patient who does not fit the traditional profile, you know overweight, heavy drinker, smoker, etc. Nope, most of the young bowelies I meet are a healthy weight leading a relatively healthy life. Some are vegetarians, some simply eat a balanced diet, some are tea total, some like the odd boozy night out, some are marathon running gym bunnies, some are just busy active people, some have a genetic disorder, some have another disease such as Crohn’s that finally lead to Bowel Cancer.
There is no evidence or data to show that younger patients develop bowel cancer because of poor lifestyle choices, in fact there is no data at all on why there has been such an increase in young bowel cancer patients. I find it upsetting when I read that it was apparently all my fault because I did not eat the right things or do enough exercise, because that simply is not true. In fact it is thought that Bowel Cancer in young people may be different to Bowel Cancer in older people, location of tumour and DNA are thought to provide some evidence of this, but we need more research in this area.
Not only are you never too young to get Bowel Cancer, you are never too fit, too healthy or too slim either! Sadly these misconceptions are often a barrier to getting a diagnosis for many of us, myself included being misdiagnosed with things like IBS, meaning when are finally diagnosed it is often when the disease is in its later stages and there is a much reduced chance of being cured.
How about I introduce you to some Bowel Cancer patients who did not fit the standard profile? Ok, I will! Here are some of the young Bowel Cancer community who want you to know that if you are slim and fit it does not mean you are not at risk, and no matter what your lifestyle or diet if you are diagnosed with Bowel Cancer at an early age it is not your fault.
Do any of us look or sound like we did this to ourselves with our diet and lifestyles? No, I do not think so either. So, why did we get Bowel Cancer so young? Nobody knows, but this rise is set to continue not just here in the UK but across Europe, in the USA, and Australia, maybe even worldwide.
I would also like to point out that while the majority of the people I have introduced you to are young white women, Bowel Cancer does not discriminate and it equally affects men and women of all ethnicities. There is still a huge stigma to Bowel Cancer and this is more prevalent in some cultures than others, we are working hard to change this but at the moment these are the people who are happy to publicly share their story and were online at the time I asked.
So you see I really am super happy to see this worrying trend being proven and given the attention it deserves, but I would really like to show the world who these young people getting Bowel Cancer are. We are young onset Bowel Cancer. Anyone and everyone is at risk. It is not our fault!