Sunday, 30 August 2015

Don’t ignore warning signs, early diagnosis helped me survive cancer, says Carlisle woman

A Carlisle woman who survived stomach cancer thanks to early diagnosis is now urging others not to ignore the signs.

Phyllis Francis photo
Phyllis Francis

Related: North Cumbrians urged to Be Clear about cancer symptoms

Phyllis Ann Francis, 68, of Irthington, first noticed she was having trouble swallowing food in 2010. Alarm bells sounded when it became so bad she could not swallow water.

She raised her concerns with her GP and was soon referred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle, for tests.

She underwent an endoscopy – where a camera is used to look inside the stomach – which identified a bleeding ulcer, and a biopsy was taken.

She was then called back for a further appointment and told she had stomach cancer – a form of oesophagogastric cancer, which is the collective term for both stomach cancer and oesophageal cancer.

Luckily it was in the very early stages and Phyllis could therefore be operated on within a matter of weeks.

And because it was caught so quickly she did not need to undergo either radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Now she is urging people to tell their GP if they notice a change in their body or think they may have a cancer symptom. Phyllis stresses that it will put their mind at rest, and if it is something more serious early diagnosis can save lives.

“I know because I was diagnosed with cancer early I was able to avoid having radio or chemotherapy.

“The tumour, which was the size of pea, and two-thirds of my stomach were removed and the only real side effects I’ve had since my operation have been that I eat smaller portions at meal time – I’ve been incredibly lucky,” she said.

Phyllis, a mother of three grown-up children – Eddie, 42, Elizabeth, 44, and Tim, 40 – and is married to Mike.

She lost her own father, mother and uncle to different types of cancer so has always been painfully aware of the worst that can happen.

She added: “Nine years ago I had a hysterectomy because they found pre-cancerous cells following a routine examination so I have been fortunate that twice, early diagnosis has allowed me to continue living a normal happy life.

“When I told one of my sons about the cancer he immediately assumed the worst and asked how long I’d got to live? But of course now with better treatments and with the benefit of early diagnosis survival rates are excellent.

“That’s why raising awareness of the symptoms of cancer and encouraging people to go to their GP as part of the Be Clear on Cancer campaign is so important.”

Now Phyllis is backing the new Be Clear on Cancer campaign, which has been launched across the north east and north Cumbria by the North of England Cancer Network to encourage people to visit their GP if they think something is wrong.

Phyllis’ doctor, Brampton-based GP Peter Weaving, said: “It’s absolutely vital that if people are concerned about any symptoms they are experiencing, and which won’t go away, that they don’t put it off. Go and see your GP as soon as possible.

“The earlier we can diagnose something the earlier we can treat it, which drastically increases someone’s chances of survival.

“Seeing your GP about a series of symptoms which may be small is not ‘being a bother’. It’s a sensible approach to diagnosing and dealing with a potentially more serious illness quickly and effectively.”


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