Well, what a few days, Wednesday 6th February was the launch of the Symptoms Diary that has been produced with the help of Bowel Cancer UK! Did I expect to be all over the papers, absolutely not! Has the publicity raised awareness, I really hope so. More importantly has it drawn attention to the symptoms diary which was the intention, I think so but maybe not to the degree I would have liked.
Do the tabloids mis-quote people and invent facts? Well this last week confirms the answer to that is definitely yes, while it is a fact that I have stage 4 bowel cancer, I have undergone many major procedures, and had I been diagnosed sooner things might have been different for me, it is not true that my GP told me I was too young nor did I have an operation in relation to peripheral neuropathy.
What have I learned about talking to the media? A few things, firstly if you do not give them enough information they will find it by searching your social media and personal blog, which as the information is already public I can’t complain about. They will add their own embellishments and not everything they report will be correct or accurate, in fact some of it they will totally make up. If one paper reports the story, others will pick it up, and they won’t ask you anything they will just rewrite the story and add their own imaginary quotes and even events.
For me the sole purpose of talking to the media this week has been to promote the symptoms diary, yes I needed to reveal some background as to why I wanted to develop the diary but I had hoped that there would be more focus on the diary itself and how it might help other people. So as the papers have largely skipped over the abundance of information they were given preferring to focus on what I have been through I thought I would outline what this diary could do and how it could help you!
- If you feel uncomfortable starting the conversation with your GP you can simply present them with the completed diary
- You can accurately record your symptoms to allow you to provide your GP with a clear picture of your circumstances
- Your GP will be able to assess the severity of your symptoms with a simple glance, allowing additional time in your consultation to discuss the finer detail
- It may assist your GP in differentiating between bowel conditions and deciding appropriate next steps, whether that be further monitoring, treatment, or referral for further investigations
- Should a referral be appropriate your GP can make a more detailed referral ensuring the correct referral type is made
There may be other benefits but these are the key ones I think will make a difference when attending a 10 minute consultation with your GP.
How many people go into their GP surgery and underplay their symptoms, because they don’t want to be seen to be a hypochondriac, or they are embarrassed to talk about certain bodily functions? How many people walk out of the GP surgery and think “I forgot to mention that”? But you don’t go back to mention one small thing! How many people when asked when they first noticed something cannot accurately remember? Life is busy and we often put things to the back of our minds and can’t be sure whether it was two or three weeks ago we first noticed it.
Should you panic if you are experiencing some of these symptoms? No, do not panic, most people won’t have bowel cancer. So if most people won’t have bowel cancer why complete the diary? The answer to this is simple, there are lots of different bowel conditions most of which are much less serious, however, some do put you at higher risk of developing bowel cancer. It is therefore important to get the right diagnosis, not just to get the right treatment but also where appropriate the right monitoring.
Please make yourself aware of the symptoms to look out for, and when it might be appropriate to ask your GP to consider referring you for further investigations. Please take a look at the Bowel Cancer UK website where you can download the symptoms diary should you feel it might be of use to you, here is a link: https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/about-bowel-cancer/symptoms/