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Cancer survivor urges people not to sit on their symptoms
Friday 27 January 2017

An Oaks patient has raised money to help beat bowel cancer in appreciation of the surgeon who helped save his life.

David Barbour, 66, from Gosbecks, Colchester, had noticed a slight change in his bowel habits when fortunately he was invited to take part in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme for the first time having just turned 60 years of age. Just days later David was invited for a colonoscopy (bowel examination) where, immediately after the procedure, he was told that he had bowel cancer.

Further tests at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust revealed that whilst the cancer had not spread it was extremely close to his bladder meaning that it would need to be shrunk by chemotherapy before it could be safely removed surgically.

The farmer and businessman, said: “I always assumed that you would know if you had cancer. But, there was nothing really very wrong with me, other than a bit of looseness in the mornings which I initially put down to having eaten a curry or a stomach upset, etc, etc. I like to think that I would have gone to my doctor with my symptoms had I not received my poo test in the post but in reality I would have probably kept putting it off – at least until after the summer golf season anyway."

Symptoms of bowel cancer can include:

* Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo.

* A change in bowel habit lasting three weeks or more.

* Unexplained weight loss.

* Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason.

* A pain or lump in your abdomen.

David had private health insurance and so after the initial diagnosis asked to continue his care at Oaks Hospital, a private hospital in Colchester well-known to his family. Under the care of Dr Bruce Sizer, Consultant Oncologist at Oaks Hospital, David underwent chemotherapy with the first session hospitalising him for ten days after he reacted badly to the particular cocktail of drugs used initially. His treatment was adjusted and he was then well enough to continue chemotherapy treatment at home. 

Six months after his initial diagnosis, David was able to have the remaining cancer surgically removed at Oaks Hospital by Consultant Surgeon, Mr Tan Arulampalam, who David describes as a “top man”. A further six months and more chemotherapy later, David was back to normal and playing golf again. But, only recently, after six tumultuous years of regular monitoring, has David finally been discharged.

Bowel surgeon, Mr Arulampalam who also sits on the Medical Board of cancer charity Beating Bowel Cancer, said: "Mr Barbour’s participation in the NHS screening programme was the initial trigger to his early diagnosis of bowel cancer. Bowel cancer is extremely treatable and curable if diagnosed early, without screening the result could have been different for Mr Barbour."

"Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, after breast, prostate and lung cancers. Over 41,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. Sadly the symptoms of bowel cancer are similar to those of other health problems and so many people ignore them or are too embarrassed to go to their doctor. But, the screening test is quick and easy to do at home and, as in Mr Barbour’s case, it’s potentially life-saving.”

David now feels so passionately about raising awareness of bowel cancer and the importance of screening and early diagnosis that, with the help of his friends at Five Lakes Golf Club, he has raised a significant sum of money for campaigning charity Beating Bowel Cancer. He also campaigns himself encouraging anyone he can “to be symptom aware and do their poo tests.”  As he says: “I was very lucky to have Mr Arulampalam, Dr Sizer and Oaks Hospital – I couldn’t have been in better hands.  But, the medical profession can only do so much, it’s up to us the public to be symptom aware and not sit on any symptoms we may have. If we don’t come forward then they can’t help us.”

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