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Why bowel cancer awareness is everyone's business

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is personal for Administration Manager Maxine Licence and here she discusses why it is such an important issue to support and raise awareness around.

Bowel health and identifying areas of concern through endoscopy is an area that the team at Tuggerah Lakes Private Hospital are passionate about, especially Administration Manager Maxine Licence.

Maxine, 58, of Woongarrah lost her 29 year-old daughter to Bowel Cancer several years ago and is a staunch advocate for bowel cancer awareness and particularly around supporting Bowel Cancer Awareness Month which falls from 1-30 June.

We had a chat to Maxine to learn more about her experience and why she considers this to be an issue that should be everyone's business.

Q; Why is this an issue which means a lot to you?

A: My Daughter Gemma was diagnosed at 25 with Stage 2 Bowel cancer. Treated with chemo was “cancer free” for 7 months than returned as Stage 4. She passed away May 2018 at 29 years of age.

Medical professionals took a long time (7 Months) to make a diagnosis which by that stage the cancer had spread.

Q: What do you think are some of the misconceptions or myths that people should be aware of when it comes to bowel cancer?

A: A high percentage of people under 40 are told by GP’s that they are “too Young” to have Bowel cancer. Sometimes there are not the traditional age bracket/ symptoms that you would expect.

Q: If there is one message you could provide to other mothers and families what would it be?

A: Be vigilant and “pushy” with medical professionals if you think that something is not right. Ask for a second opinion, don’t give up. Ask for tests, don’t wait.

Q: What are some of the warning signs/things to look out for that people should be aware of?

A: Abdo pain, bleeding, tiredness, weight loss.

Q: What would you share as guidance or support to others who may be currently experiencing a journey similar to what you have?

A: Utilise the support that Bowel Cancer Australia offers. They are caring and pro active in taking steps to support families and patients. They have a peer support network that can help you through.

Become educated as much as you can so that you can be an advocate for the patient.

Q: Why is this an issue that people should be paying attention to?

A: Bowel Cancer is becoming more and more a young person’s disease. It can be cured if caught early enough. Wait lists in the public system are long and that puts lives in danger.

Also, misdiagnosis or the “brushing off “ of young patients works against early diagnosis and cure.

Q: What guidance/tips do you have for friends and family who may be unsure how to support a loved one experiencing bowel cancer?

A: Explore every avenue to get support. BCA offers a holistic support network with a dedicated Bowel Care Nurse that supports the whole family.

The patient can become involved in marketing campaigns with BCA as this enables them to be an advocate for themselves and the disease. #Never2Young & #RedAppleDay

During the month of June, bowel cancer awareness ribbons will be available for purchase in reception at Tuggerah Lakes Private Hospital or alternatively, people can donate online.