A WOMAN diagnosed with bowel cancer aged just 32 is campaigning for greater awareness that young people can suffer from the disease.
Hayley Hovey says she may have given birth to her daughter Autumn prematurely after the cancer went undetected. Her baby died four weeks later.
She says both she and medical professionals confused her symptoms with pregnancy problems and grief and she wasn’t correctly diagnosed for four months.
Hayley, now clear of cancer, is backing a Bowel Cancer UK campaign to improve detection rates in the under-50s.
The 34-year-old from Portchester said: ‘I put a lot of things down to depression and anxiety after Autumn died in 2011.
‘The problem is that symptoms can be confused with other things.’
Nick Bason, Bowel Cancer UK’s head of policy and public affairs, said: ‘A lot of people who present symptoms to GPs find them being attributed to other things.
‘We recognise that symptoms can be vague. But bowel cancer should be ruled out first, not last.’
He said symptoms in young women were often associated with the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
Bowel Cancer UK is running a new research project with the University of Exeter, funded by the Department of Health. The research will lead to new support and guidance for doctors. Hayley had few classic symptoms while pregnant.
But after her daughter’s birth a lump was felt in her abdomen, which was initially put down to a possible infection.
She said: ‘There was no blatant misconduct, but there could be a more cautious investigative approach.’
Sean Duffy, National Clinic Director for NHS England, said: ‘Current national guidance for bowel cancer focuses on older patients and their symptoms. I believe the new research will help address this.’