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By John Ely Senior Health Correspondent for Mailonline

00:01 04 April 2024, Updated 00:10 04 April 2024

When Ellie Wilcock felt a sudden pain in her abdomen, she assumed a urinary tract infection (UTI) was to blame.

After all, it was something the then 25-year-old had experienced before.

But the real cause is cancer, which kills around 17,000 Britons every year.

Now 27-year-old Ellie, from Peterborough, has been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer – the most dangerous form of the disease.

Colon cancer, the fourth most common cancer in the UK, is the type that killed Dame Deborah James aged 40 in 2022.

Ellie Wilcock, who is in her mid-20s, said her sudden abdominal pain was due to a urinary tract infection.
But the real cause is bowel cancer, which kills around 17,000 Britons every year.
Dame Deborah James, who will die in 2022 aged 40 after raising more than £11.3m for cancer research

The content manager’s illness began with ‘severe pain’ in her abdomen, a common symptom of the disease.

However, she thought ‘nothing’ at the time and simply suspected it was a UTI.

But when the pain worsened, she decided to seek help from her GP.

UTI tests came back negative, but concurrent blood tests showed signs of infection.

Such symptoms can indicate cancer but also other possible diseases and conditions.

Ellie was then taken in for an ultrasound, but her pain quickly worsened, forcing her to seek help through A&E.

A scan there revealed an unknown mass in her lower abdomen.

At the time, medical experts suspected that it might be an ovarian tumor or another disease.

The devastating truth was revealed only when a biopsy was performed.

Tests revealed the disease had spread to her liver, ovaries and peritoneum – the lining that covers the organs inside the abdomen.

In the year

Amidst this confusion, Dame Deborah recalls how her efforts in raising awareness of the disease, nicknamed ‘Bowellbabe’, gave her comfort and hope.

I remember being in the middle of my treatment when I followed Deborah’s story.

Cancer felt like a new and scary world for me to step into for the first time.

‘It was scary and unfamiliar to me, full of doctors, hospital gowns and a cocktail of tests and drugs.’

“It was Deborah who made all this ‘New World’ man feel. Deborah, to me, was proof that you really can live with cancer.

She was this beacon of hope that truly inspired and encouraged, this positivity will continue to shine through her legacy.’

Ellie underwent multiple surgeries and intense chemotherapy to remove her cancer, but was told in August 2022 that there was no more evidence of the disease.

While bowel cancer is highest in people aged 85 to 89 in the UK, rates are rising among adults under 50, such as Ellie and Dame Deborah, experts have warned.

Experts are concerned about the rising incidence of cancer in young adults in general, an issue that has gained much attention following Kate Middleton’s shock diagnosis last month.

The main symptoms of colon cancer are unusual changes in your bowel movements, such as loose stools, diarrhea or constipation.

Other symptoms include more or less frequent urination, blood in the stool, or feeling the need to urinate even after you’ve gone.

Like Ellie, people may also experience abdominal pain or other symptoms such as bloating, weight loss without trying or fatigue.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms for three weeks or more is advised to contact their doctor.

Symptoms of colon cancer can be caused by other conditions, but it is important to diagnose the disease as soon as possible.

Cancer Research UK estimates that more than half (54 per cent) of bowel cancer cases in the UK are preventable.

Some of the risk factors for the disease include eating too little fiber, eating too much red meat, and obesity.