You’ve Been Diagnosed with Bowel Cancer…What Happens Now?
“Every two minutes someone is diagnosed with cancer,” horrid words to hear from Cancer Research UK. Included in this statistic is bowel cancer. And this month there is significant health awareness of the condition, with Beating Bowel Cancer’s Decembeard campaign. But despite the health awareness month campaign, many of us may not realise just how many people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year. In 2011, alone, 41,581 people in the UK were diagnosed with the condition. The good news, though, is that the majority (57%) were expected to live a further ten years, or more, after treatment.
Today, if caught early, chances of surviving with bowel cancer for more than ten years increases to 90%, according to Cancer Research UK. Patients with advanced bowel cancer are also set to benefit from a revolutionary clinical trial, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, which was launched earlier this year and targets treatments for specific cancer. Meanwhile, this month, the fight to stop bowel cancer is building. A team of researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics has conducted studies, which could explain how some cancers become resistant to certain treatments, such as chemotherapy.
It is evident that medical treatment for bowel cancer is continually advancing, and that the prognosis is good, especially if you’ve managed to catch the cancer fairly early. There is hope and that hope is growing.
Kate Law, director of clinical research for Cancer Research UK states that the progression of cancer research is progressing at a “phenomenal” pace. “We are learning more about the disease every day,” she says.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with bowel cancer, it’s likely that you’re experiencing a huge range of emotions; ranging from confusion and anger, to anxiety and fear for the future. It’s not surprising; you’ve just received information that has a huge impact on your life, and trying to make sense of it all can sometimes be a challenging task.
One of the questions that you’re most likely to ask is ‘what now?’ What exactly is going to happen, now that you know you have bowel cancer, and what can you expect during the months after your initial diagnosis?
Understand the condition you have
It’s important to know the exact nature of the condition. Lack of information can often generate a fear of the unknown, which can raise levels of anxiety, stress and depression. Firstly, know that you are not alone.
Bowel cancer, quite simply, is a tumour in the bowel; which causes pain, bleeding and a range of other symptoms. It’s not a pleasant thought to know that you are suffering from this condition, but the good news is that you have now been diagnosed, and can start tackling the condition proactively.
After your initial diagnosis, it’s likely that you’ll be referred for further tests, to find out the exact nature of your bowel cancer. This process is referred to as ‘staging’. After you have been staged successfully, your doctor will begin to formulate a strategy to combat the cancer.
During your consultation with your doctor, take the opportunity to ask any questions that you may have. See this as an opportunity to find out the exact strategy that the doctor plans to use to combat the illness, and a chance to gain better insight into what you can expect in terms of lifestyle change, pain management and the nature of the treatment involved. The Beating Bowel Cancer website is a good place to go for this.
Coping with Treatment and the Aftermath
The treatment that you’ll be offered will depend upon the location and stage of your cancer. The three options are:
You may receive one of these treatments, or a combination. If your cancer has spread to other parts of the body, you may also be recommended for targeted therapies. Throughout your treatment, it’s important to remember that bowel cancer doesn’t just affect the body; and your treatment and recovery is likely to be an emotional as well as a physical process. Look at how you can act proactively to help your recovery. Aim to improve your diet, reduce your stress levels and give your body the appropriate time and peace to recuperate effectively. For further advice and support, visit Cancer Research UK’s ‘cancer-chat’ forum on their website.