Bloating is an uncomfortable but fairly common occurrence for many people. Most of us, especially those with gastroenterological issues such as IBS, will find that our stomachs inflate and become puffy right after eating or drinking too much water. But one woman is warning people not to dismiss bloating as completely normal after it became one of the symptoms which led to her diagnosis of bowel cancer.
Writing on News.com.au, Sherrie Hager described how, at 31 years old, she began experiencing constant bloating, stomach pain and diarrhea. “I was a size 10 but I looked pregnant,” she described, adding: “Everything I ate and drank went straight through me within an hour. I couldn’t even drink plain water without feeling bloated and sick.”
As a Crohn’s sufferer — which is an inflammatory bowel disease — this wasn’t the first time Hager had experienced issues with digestion and her bowel movements, but after a while she began to realize her symptoms were different this time.
After three months, she went to her doctor and requested a colonoscopy, which was where they discovered she had bowel cancer. To treat the cancer, Hager underwent several major surgeries, as well as radiotherapy and chemotherapy — the side effects of which she notes were “worse than my cancer symptoms.”
Hager is now speaking out about the symptoms to raise awareness, because they so closely resemble those linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) — a much more minor condition. This similarity, Hager says, means young people especially “are being misdiagnosed or turned away, so by the time their cancer becomes clearer, it is too late, it has already spread, they are hospitalized and they are faced with their own mortality.”
And she’s right. Earlier in the year, Cosmopolitan UK spoke to The London Clinic’s Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr. Lisa Das about other health issues which are commonly mistaken for IBS, and she explained how “alarmingly, research suggests the risk of bowel cancer and rectal cancer is actually increasing in the younger generation.”
The doctor puts this down to a widespread assumption that younger people aren’t at risk because, historically, bowel cancer has predominantly affected the over 50s.
“Somebody born in the 1990s has four times the risk of rectal cancer than somebody born in the 1950s now,” Dr. Das added.
Of course, everyone is different and sometimes bloating is just bloating, but it’s always important to listen to your body.