‘I’m only 28 I can’t get cancer’ – Young mum’s reaction to diagnosis as she issues important advice

A young mum who was diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic is urging people not to ignore their symptoms. Emma Barber said her early diagnosis saved her life.

Emma, ​​aged 28, from Worcestershire, was told she had stage three bowel cancer at the start of 2021. She said her first thought was, ‘I’m too young to get cancer’.

But after six months of treatment she now has the all clear and is advising other people – especially those who are young – to be aware of the symptoms and not to bury their heads in the sand. She said going to her GP as soon as she felt unwell had undoubtedly saved her life.

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Emma, ​​from Worcester, had noticed blood in her poo for a little while, but wasn’t too concerned, despite having a family history of bowel cancer. She only got help after a night of extreme pain and going to the toilet a lot more and her partner made her contact her GP.

She was then referred for a colonoscopy at Worcestershire Royal Hospital where she was given the devastating news that she had stage three bowel cancer. Emma said: “I couldn’t believe what they were telling me, I was only 28.



Emma Barber, with her partner and baby son
Emma Barber, with her partner Dean and baby her Oscar

“When you’re told that you have cancer, your whole world comes crashing down. I naturally thought I was going to die, I thought of my little boy and my family that need me.”

Emma went on to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy. “The treatment was intense and I felt absolutely knackered, but at the end of March I finally finished my treatment,” she said. ”I had some follow-up scans in May and met my consultant who told me the treatment had worked and my cancer had been cleared.”

Emma still had to have further surgery to remove a cyst and some scarring, but by the end of June had been discharged. She now wants to warn other young people that they are not immune to bowel cancer.

“ No one is ever too young for cancer and I will never stop raising awareness of bowel cancer,” she said. “Speak to your family, go and see your doctor and get their advice, because if I didn’t go to the doctors I don’t know what position I’d be in now.”

Bowel cancer is treatable and curable, but the chances of survival are dramatically improved if it is diagnosed early. Nearly everyone diagnosed at the earliest stage will survive bowel cancer but this drops significantly as the disease develops.

Symptoms of the disease include a persistent change in bowel habit, blood in your poo, abdominal pain and discomfort or bloating always being brought on by eating. Despite 94 per cent of cases being in the over-50s, thousands of younger people are also diagnosed each year.

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