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Bowel cancer affects people of all ages

Robyn is recovering from surgery  on Bass Ward at Frankston Hospital after being diagnosed with bowel cancer.

While age is a risk factor, bowel cancer doesn’t just affect older people – 54-year-old Robyn Sabo was diagnosed last year.

“It all started with occasional blood on the toilet paper,” explained Robyn, who just pushed it aside.

“Then after I had been to the toilet, I never felt like I was finished, I always had this unfinished feeling. Then it turned from one extreme to the other – I’d be walking down the street and suddenly have diarrhoea.”

Still Robyn dismissed the symptoms, as she had other things going on in her life.

“I started getting back pain and I put this down to being hit by a car seven years ago and me getting older but it wasn’t that at all,” recalled Robyn.

“I let the pain go and go and go until 19 December last year and then I rang an ambulance – I couldn’t stand the pain anymore.”

Robyn was bought to Frankston Hospital where she was given some bad news.

“They took me into hospital, gave me a biopsy that night and then bang – sorry you’ve got cancer.”

“The cancer had grown and wrapped itself around my rectum.”

Radiation and chemotherapy followed and Robyn has recently just had an operation to remove the cancer.

“They removed part of my bowel, my whole rectum and closed my anus. I’ve had a flap put on and I’ve got a stoma and I’ll have that for the rest of my life.”

A stoma is an opening from which body waste is expelled.  It is also known as a colostomy.  A bag is worn around the stoma/colostomy to collect the waste.

Robyn encourages other people to do the bowel screening tests and go to the doctor if they have any symptoms.

“Don’t wait like I did because this could happen to you, I had no bowel cancer history in my family – I’m just lucky the cancer didn’t spread any further,” said Robyn.

“I’d had two bowel cancer screening tests in the mail but I never did them – just do it, it doesn’t cost anything and it could save your life.”

While Robyn wishes she’d gone to the doctors 12 months earlier, she still considers herself lucky as the cancer hasn’t spread and they were able to remove all of it in the operation. 

“The doctors have been marvellous and all the support here at the hospital has been really good.”

Learn more about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

 

Jessica Mills
JMills@phcn.vic.gov.au
0419 868 824