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I'm afraid that your cancer has spread

Updated on May 5, 2011

early diagnosis of bowel cancer can save lives


I’m Afraid That Your Cancer Has Spread

Unfortunately, that's the line I've been using 2 days in a row

Kate is a 53 years old house-wife. Her husband works for a club. Her two daughters work as secretaries in trading companies. A close family. She was referred to see me two years ago after having passed blood in her stools for six months. I diagnosed her rectal cancer and operated on her. She had radiotherapy and chemotherapy afterwards. Last month she returned to me for a second opinion when her oncologist told her that her tumour marker has gone up again after being normal for the past two years. I explained to her that tumour recurrence was the likely cause. She had some repeat scans and was supposed to return some time this week. Instead, she was admitted as an emergency when she started vomiting almost continuously over the weekend. Her X rays were suggestive of bowel obstruction. Yesterday, I told her, "I'm afraid that your cancer has spread."

Ken is 48 years old and works for the railway. He and his wife have been married for ten years. In January this year, they decided to go for physical checkups in preparation to bring in children to their lives. He was referred to see me when his family doctor found a swelling in his groin. I diagnosed his rectal cancer and investigated this further with some abdominal CT scans. The cancer was locally invading his pelvis but he had no sign of metastases in his liver or lungs. I explained to him that the best strategy would be to shrink the cancer with chemotherapy and radiotherapy and operate later. He went through his oncological treatment rather uneventfully and was looking forward to seeing me and scheduling surgery. I repeated his abdominal CT scan and was dismayed to see signs of new cancers growing in other parts of his abdomen. My line was repeated, this morning.

Treatment for colon and rectal cancers have become much more effective these days and we are happy to see many of our patients recover, families stay intact and lives preserved. However, patients are still dying left, right and centre from the dreaded disease, especially when they are unfamiliar with symptoms of the disease and present late, and the usefulness of screening for bowel cancer. In fact, I am seeing a lot of these late cancers occuring to my fellow physicians, who are busy healing others and neglecting themselves. Colon and rectal cancer deaths will stay high unless more patients are diagnosed in earlier stages. We don't hesitate to warn pedestrians of slippery sidewalks on a wet day. I think we should do better with alarming our fellowmen of the risk of these common cancers. Do your loved ones, your friends and yourselves a favor: ask whether they, or you, have had screening for colon and rectal cancer.

Dr Benson Yeung's related hub:

Why do you need colorectal cancer screening





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    • profile image

      Costello 5 years ago

      Do not be afraid about cancer .


    • Benson Yeung profile image

      Benson Yeung 7 years ago from Hong Kong

      Hi Ingenira,

      this should be done once every ten years from the age of 50 on. If there is family history of bowel cancer, this should start at the age of 40 and be repeated once every 5 years.

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 7 years ago

      How often should we do screening for colon and rectal cancer ?

    • Benson Yeung profile image

      Benson Yeung 7 years ago from Hong Kong

      Hi Dorsi,

      thanks for commenting and supporting my cause.


    • Dorsi profile image

      Dorsi Diaz 7 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

      Thanks Benson for bringing this to light. Preventative care and knowledge can save lives, and you are helping do that by writing about this. Thank-you!

    • Benson Yeung profile image

      Benson Yeung 7 years ago from Hong Kong

      Yes, but the new CT scans carry a very low dose of radiation. The risk of not having them is, in many cases, higher than having them.


    • rwelton profile image

      rwelton 7 years ago from Sacramento CA

      Thanks - New to HubPages. Reading with interest blogs about CTScans and Cancer. Do you know if there is a danger for too many CTScans?