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Dublin: 6 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019
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'If you think you have a symptom, get checked - bowel cancer is a silent killer'

It’s Bowel Cancer Awareness Month this month.

Paul Mohan
Paul Mohan

“I FELT QUITE well, I didn’t feel sick, but I was just diagnosed with bowel cancer.”

Paul Mohan was diagnosed with testicular and kidney cancer at the age of 21 in 1984. After a short battle, he soon recovered.

Living as a diabetic, Mohan, now aged 54, has had to undergo regular blood tests for years.

In 2016, one particular blood test came back with inconclusive results. His doctor ran the test again. It still wasn’t right.

“I was passing a bit of blood too, so my doctor took the initiative and he sent me to St Vincent’s Hospital Dublin for a colonoscopy,” Mohan told TheJournal.ie. 

Once at the hospital, Mohan saw a consultant and had an MRI scan done.

It showed that I had a tumour, high up in the colon. I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Mohan received his diagnosis on 30 December 2017.

“It was upsetting. Considering I don’t smoke and at the time I was just a social drinker, and particularly the date that was in it, the day before New Years’ Eve, it wasn’t ideal,” he said.

“The first thought that went through my mind was how do I tell family and friends. The second thought was what did I do to cause it but the doctors said I did nothing.”

Keeping positive 

On 7 March 2017, Mohan underwent a 10-hour surgery on his colon. He spent over three weeks in recovery. 

Two months later, he began the first of 12 sessions of chemotherapy, which he would receive three days every two weeks.

“It was hard going but as the sessions went on it got harder and harder because it had a cumulative effect,” Mohan said.

Despite the fact that the chemotherapy got increasingly harder, Mohan said that it was vital to keep a positive mindset.

“During chemo, I made sure I was getting up every day. I read what chemo can do and thankfully it just made me very tired,” he said.

I would urge people to keep away from Google. Anything that you want to know about cancer, just ask the oncology team and they will tell you in plain English.

Mohan noted that keeping a positive mindset certainly isn’t the easier thing in the world when you are facing a battle with cancer. However, he said that setting small goals for himself throughout his journey helped him keep a bright outlook on his life.

Rely on family and friends and talk to family and friends. Try to get your own mind around it and ask your oncology team everything. When it comes to something like this there is no stupid question.

“To get your head around it would be to sit down and say this time next year I will be back to work. Set yourself small goals, say you’re going to do this or that in one month’s time. One very small goal I set myself was to get out of bed every day,” he said.

Getting checked

Over 2,700 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in Ireland. More than 1,000 people die from the disease every year, making it the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland.

Throughout his conversation with TheJournal.ie, Mohan stressed the importance of going to see a doctor if you have even the slightest concern about a symptom.

“I would urge anybody who even thinks they have a symptom to go to the doctor because this type of cancer is basically a silent killer,” he said.

“The only symptom I had was sometimes passing blood. I felt actually quite well, I didn’t feel sick.

There’s nothing to fear in going to the doctor and there’s nothing to fear in a colonoscopy. If I hadn’t have gone to the doctor, chances are I would be a lot sicker today.

The symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • A change in your normal bowel motion, such as diarrhoea or constipation
  • Feeling you have no emptied your bowel fully after a motion
  • Pain or discomfort in your abdomen or back passage
  • Trapped wind or fullness in your stomach
  • Weight loss
  • Tired and breathless (due to anaemia from blood loss)
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stool

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. To speak to a cancer nurse on any aspect of bowel cancer, contact the Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700, or email cancernurseline@irishcancer.ie.

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