WHEN dad-of-two Matthew Wiltshire noticed ‘concerning poos’ he put it down to too much red wine and steak.
But airing on the side of caution, the then 48-year-old decided to visit his GP.
That was in April 2015 and since then, the charity founder has had over 50 round of chemotherapy, plus radiotherapy to keep bowel cancer at bay.
Speaking to The Sun, Matthew, now 55, who lives with his wife Sophie, 51, in Weybridge, Surrey, is urging Brits to not put off embarrassing conversations about bodily functions.
Bowel cancer screening in the UK is offered to people in their 50s.
Sun writer Deborah James, who is currently receiving palliative care for stage 4 bowel cancer, helped to lower the screening age – which had previously been for people 60 and over.
Early diagnosis saves lives – but because of the age limit on checks – many people think they are too young for bowel cancer, which is exactly what Matthew experienced when he visited his GP.
“The doctor said not to worry, at 48, I was too young for bowel cancer – I figured I’d just been eating too much steak and drinking too much red wine,” he remembers.
He was referred for a colonoscopy “just to be safe” and a cancerous tumour was found in his colon.
“My whole world turned upside down. I worried about what treatment I’d need and faced the overwhelming fear that I wouldn’t be around to look after my family planned as long as I’d,” says Matthew.
He began a “rollercoaster” of treatment that proved successful.
Within three weeks he had surgery to have the tumour removed and says the time he spent in hospital ‘was without doubt the worst I’d endured my life’.
“I was fed through a drip in my neck for a week and had to live with a stoma for three months.
“But ultimately, the operation was successful. I was sent home to carry on with my life without radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
“The ileostomy was reversed in August 2015 and I was told the cancer was a low stage and they’d caught it early on. In August 2016, I celebrated my one-year all clear of cancer.”
I’ve been stage four for five years now. I’m still here. I’m defying the odds
But in November 2017, Matthew started to experience pain in his bottom area and scans revealed the cancer had returned this time in the pelvic region.
“My oncologist put me on five weeks of daily radiotherapy with tablet form chemotherapy and weekly intravenous chemotherapy.
“I was due to have surgery in 2017 but before carrying out the procedure the surgeon did a scan which showed some suspicious nodules in my lungs.
I had to wait eight weeks to see if they grew. They did. I was told I had stage four metastatic colorectal cancer.
“He said there was no point doing the operation, it was hopeless. I was too far gone.”
Then in 2018, Matthew decided to do whatever he could to look after himself.
The signs of bowel cancer you need to know – remember BOWEL
There are several possible causes of bleeding from your bottom, of blood in your poo.
Bright red blood could come from swollen blood vessels, haemorrhoids or piles, in your back passage.
Dark red or black blood could come from your bowel or stomach.
Blood in your stools is one of the key signs of bowel cancer, so it’s important to mention it to your doctor so they can investigate.
2. O: Obvious change in loo habits
It’s important to tell your GP if you have noticed any changes in your bowel habits, that lasts three weeks or longer.
It’s especially important if you have also noticed signs of blood in your poo.
You might notice you need to go to the loo more often, you might have looser stools or feel like you’re not going enough or fully emptying your bowels.
Don’t be embarrassed, your GP will have heard a lot worse! Speak up and get it checked.
3. W: Weight loss
This is less common than the other symptoms, but an important one to be aware of. If you’ve lost weight and don’t really know why, it’s worth mentioning to your GP.
You may not feel like eating, feel sick, bloated and not hungry.
4. E: Extreme tiredness
Bowel cancer that causes bleeding can cause a lack of iron in the body – anaemia. If you develop anaemia you’re likely to feel tired and your skin might look pale.
5. L: Lump or pain
As with lots of other forms of cancer, a lump or pain can be a sign of bowel cancer.
It’s most likely you’ll notice a pain or lump in your stomach or back passage
He explained: “Conventional medicine wasn’t working for me. I went on the Keto diet, looked after my body more. I take supplements. I gave up my job in IT.
“I’ve continued chemotherapy and have probably had 50 rounds to keep the cancer at bay.
“I’ve been stage four for five years now. I’m still here. I’m defying the odds.”
Matthew felt there wasn’t enough support for men with cancer so founded The Cancer Club.
He said that when it comes to men looking after their health, they leave things too late and don’t talk to each other.
“My biggest message to anyone with any symptom would be to go and get it dealt with.
“People live with it for too long. That is especially true of bowel cancer as you have to talk about poo and it’s a taboo subject.
“People feel too embarrassed and then get diagnosed at a late stage.
“Don’t put it off if you are having symptoms – one embarrassing conversation could save your life.”
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