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Bowel cancer scare

18 Oct 2019 00:11

Hi - I’m new here, and very worried about bowel cancer. 

I am a 72-yr-old woman with a long history of digestive issues - IBS (diagnosed in my 20s with “spastic colon”), constipation (made worse by long-term antidepressants) and GERD/reflux. Recently - about 2 months ago - I had what I thought was an IBS flare-up - cramps, loose yellow stools, bloating, nausea, low-grade fever. I had blood tests which showed raised white count and inflammation. The GP said it was an infection, sent me home with antispasmodics, said to rest and come back if it got worse. It slowly got better, and follow-up blood tests (including a CA125 test) were ok. But the lower abdominal discomfort never went away completely, nor did the nausea. Over the past couple of weeks the pain and nausea started getting worse, so I went back to the GP. She did a manual exam of my abdomen and when she got to the tender part, she said “That’s your hernia!” (I have bilateral inguinal hernias, both very small.) She referred me for a pelvic ultrasound, as well as more blood tests (for liver enzymes and ferritin), and for a FIT stool test, apparently much more sensitive than the bowel screening test you get in the post (those have always come back clear). This afternoon I got a phone call from a nurse in the colorectal dept of the hospital, saying the results of the stool test were abnormal - there was a “high level” of blood found (which was not visible when I took the sample). I asked her how high? She said that normal was 100 or below (100 what? She didn’t explain), and my test was at 265. At those levels, she said, we need to test for bowel cancer - we consider it urgent, so you’ll need to come in for a colonoscopy in the next 2 weeks.

i have struggled with health anxiety all my life - so this phone call has completely poleaxed me. I’m terrified. I’ve never received test results via a phone call before, so I immediately assumed I’m dying. I did ask her if the blood could indicate anything other than cancer, and she mentioned diverticular disease and polyps, but she seemed very focused on cancer. She also asked about other symptoms - abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, decreased appetite... check, check, check. As I said, I’m terrified.

My colonoscopy is scheduled for next Tuesday. It’s now Thursday night, and I’m wondering how I’ll get through the next 4 days without going mad with worry. What I’d really like to know is statistically, how often does that level of blood in a FIT test turn out to be cancer? Is diverticulitis more or less likely with my symptoms? I know I won’t know anything for sure till I have the test, but any advice or words of wisdom would be so appreciated. 

Bowel cancer scare

18 Oct 2019 14:58 in response to roxanna1749


I am sorry to read about all the bowel problems you have had.  It is always an anxious time waiting for tests to be done and for their results, but on the other hand it is good that your doctor is taking things seriously and is checking you out thoroughly.

The FIT test looks for traces of blood in your stool.  Most people with a positive result will turn out not to have cancer, but because it can indicate that you might have cancer, usually the doctors will want to follow it up with a colonoscopy.  Potentially any condition that has caused the lining of your bowel to bleed could give a positive result and it sounds like you already have quite a few bowel problems.

So although doing further tests will be the right thing to do, there is still every chance that it will turn out to be something else and not cancer.

I hope that gives you some reassurance.  I know it is easy for me to say this, but try not to worry too much.

Take care