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An Ipswich mum diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer nearly 12 weeks after having her second child is warning young people that ‘cancer doesn’t discriminate’.
Amanda was just 32 years old when doctors at Mater told her the devastating news she had bowel cancer last July.
Prior to being treated for bowel cancer at Mater Cancer Care Centre Springfield, the Augustine Heights mother-of-two had suffered several months of agonising abdominal pain, which began nearly five months into second her pregnancy with daughter April (1).
“The pain I endured while pregnant was something I had never experienced during my first pregnancy with my now two-year-old daughter Lilly.”
With a strong family history of bowel cancer, Amanda said she “knew something was wrong” however her concerns were dismissed by GPs as pregnancy-related pain before she was eventually referred to Mater.
Shining the spotlight during National Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, Amanda said her mum was diagnosed with stage two bowel cancer aged just 40, and her aunty had stage three bowel cancer at 35.
“Thankfully both are still here with us today, cancer free and healthier than ever,” she said.
While caring for a toddler and tiny newborn with partner Ben, Amanda was referred to Mater Cancer Care Centre oncologist Dr Sophie Feng in November who said, “the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes at time of diagnosis”.
“Sadly, it’s not uncommon for these symptoms to be missed or ignored in young people,” Dr Feng said.
“The rate of colorectal cancer diagnosis in young people – those under 50 – is increasing.”
Since Amanda’s diagnosis, she has undergone a bowel reconstruction where most of the right side of her bowel was removed, liver surgery, and 12 rounds of chemotherapy.
The Cancer Council estimates that more than 15,700 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer last year, and that one in 19 people will be diagnosed with the disease by the time they are 85 years old.1
“It’s not an old person’s disease - even if you’re in your 20s or 30s, know your family history and know the signs,” Dr Feng sad.
“If, like in Amanda’s case, you have abdominal pain and any unusual bleeding, it’s cause to see your GP.
“It’s also important to recognise the more subtle signs such as a change in bowel habits, unexpected weight loss and tiredness or fatigue, because around 90 per cent of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated if detected early.”
Amanda said due to her age and that of her mum and aunty at the time of having cancer, a colorectal surgeon suggested she undergo genetic testing for Lynch Syndrome, a genetic mutation that is inherited and predisposes the carrier to an increased risk of developing certain cancers.
There are four different strains of lynch syndrome, and Amanda tested positive to a strain called MLH1, which increases the risk of bowel, ovarian, endometrial, bladder, and stomach cancers.
“Because of this, doctors suggested I have a full hysterectomy as a preventative measure, which is a huge decision to make at 32 – I’m still unsure if my family is complete,” she said.
Amanda said she spent the first few days after her diagnosis crying and is now urging young people to ‘know your body’.
“You are never too young to get cancer. Don't put off medical appointments. Advocate for your health, if you don’t feel you’re listened to from one GP, then see another one and get a second opinion,” she said.
“Don’t ignore any changes, however small and insignificant they may seem.
“No one wants to hear they have cancer. I had spent months seeing doctors for answers. After several investigating examinations, the cancer was revealed through a CT scan at Mater which showed a mass in my bowel.
“After my diagnosis, I was so relieved to finally have a reason for my pain and was actually excited when I decided to have surgery as the first step in my treatment plan.”
Almost a year after her diagnosis, Amanda is determined to beat bowel cancer and return to work as a Mater Hospital Brisbane pharmacy technician.
“Life is busy juggling medical appointments and chemotherapy, and parenting,” she said.
“I have scans booked this month (June) which will give us an indication of how treatment has worked.”
Mater Cancer Care Centres are located at South Brisbane, Springfield and Redland, delivering the highest level of medical care and support for patients and their families during treatments.
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