BOWEL CANCER: Survivor David Gardiner.
BOWEL CANCER: Survivor David Gardiner. Nina Beilby

Don't ignore it: When bowel cancer is detected

"WHEN bowel cancer is detected, the best thing you can do is to make sure your doctors pursue it quickly to reduce further problems long term," David Gardiner says.

He's 57 now, but at the age of 51 David was diagnosed with first stage bowel after a routine check-up with his GP.

There were no symptoms. 

"My GP handed me another kit and recommended I do it," David said. A positive result was returned. His GP booked him in for an immediate colonoscopy. "It was booked and done two weeks later," David said. "Three weeks later I went in for surgery and had 10-15 cm of my lower bowel removed. I was measured for a stoma although ultimately this was not required."

David found the treatment advice voluminous and varied, so he sought the advice of an independent doctor who guided him through the process. As a result, he declined chemotherapy and radiotherapy. "I felt it was the right decision for me," David added.

His recovery has been good, helped on my talking to a nutritionist to assist with developing a suitable diet. "I was given dietary advice on leaving hospital but to be honest, the information consisted of lists of good and bad options, which were very limited and sometimes not that clear. It was probably the most difficult part of my recovery," David said.

"There are nutritionists that can help this process, My GP had someone in the practice that I used and I found it useful to talk face-to-face and one-on-one," he added. There is also a Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline which can be accessed online and via telephone. 

"During a routine PET scan a very small tumour on my thyroid was discovered. Apparently, it had a one per cent chance of being cancerous. After further tests, it turned out I was indeed in that one per cent, so that was another surgery I underwent. Thankfully that side of things is also under control."

David is continuing with colonoscopy and blood tests, "but they are no longer as frightening".

"The entire process opens you up to a whole other world and in the blink of one positive test, so many more issues can arise that you had never even contemplated," he said. "This experience has made me realise the importance of talking to your family about their medical history. Until I was diagnosed I had no idea both my aunt and grandmother had had bowel cancer."

Talk about it, says David. If you are aware of a symptom or problem, if there is bleeding or irregular bowel movements, talk to your doctor and to your family.

For his over-50 friends that haven't done the test yet, he has supplied them with test kits. 

"This experience has made me realise the importance of talking to your family about their medical history. Until I was diagnosed I had no idea both my aunt and grandmother had had bowel cancer," David said. "My closest friends and family, and my brothers have all had bought-forward colonoscopies."

To find out more about bowel cancer, go to w: bowelcanceraustralia.org or call the Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline on 1800 555494.


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