Jeremy Bowen, who has been BBC Middle East correspondent since 2005, experienced pain in his legs and back while working in Iraq last May. Despite presenting none of the tell-tale signs of bowel cancer, he decided to ask his doctor for a test and it returned positive for the disease.
Talking on BBC Breakfast he explained, "When I came back (from Iraq) I had to go to hospital for a couple of days, but they didn't mention cancer. They said it was to do with some scar tissue I had from some previous surgery."
"But I thought I should get a test, he continued. "so I went to my GP. I’d had none of the classic bowel cancer symptoms, nothing at all, so I thought I should get a test."
After diagnosis, Bowen underwent surgery to have a tumour removed and continues to receive chemotherapy, which he said "is not nearly as bad as I thought it would be in terms of side effects".
"I think I've just been quite lucky to tolerate it," he added. "The key thing is to get tested, I've told all my friends to get to their doctors for a test."
Symptoms of bowel cancer
- Bowel cancer is often painless in the early stages. The Department of Health recently launched a national ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign to raise awareness of the signs of bowel cancer and encourage people to visit their GP if they experience the main symptoms, which are blood in the faeces or loose stools for three weeks or more. There are other symptoms to be aware of, including:
- Weight loss without any obvious reason and/or loss of appetite
- Tiredness or breathlessness for no apparent reason – this may be caused by the small amount of blood loss from your bowel, resulting in anaemia (when there are too few red blood cells or not enough haemoglobin in your blood)
- Pain, or a lump or swelling in your abdomen (tummy)
Bowen said he hopes that by speaking candidly about his diagnosis and treatment, more people will be inspired to get tested.
"I have kept quiet about it, except to my nearest and dearest and friends and so on," he said. "If me coming on your programme (BBC Breakfast) means that a few extra people get tested and as a result get their cancers caught, then it's time well spent."Last modified: April 1, 2019