Blyth man diagnosed with 'incurable' cancer after struggling to wee - and the signs to look out for

Phil Dobson has been undergoing treatment after being diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma. Credit: NCJ Media

A man has opened up about his diagnosis with an "incurable"cancer at the age of just 24.

Phil Dobson, who noticed something was not right when he struggled to go to the toilet, is now raising awareness about the most common symptoms of cancer in younger people.

The Northumberland man said he first noticed something was wrong when he had trouble passing urine on a trip to Edinburgh with his girlfriend in July 2021.

He believed it was because he had been drinking alcohol, but on the train home to Newcastle he experienced severe pain in his bladder and went straight to A&E.

"On the second day of the trip, I started having trouble passing urine," Mr Dobson said.

"I felt like I always needed a wee, but nothing was coming out. I thought nothing of it because I had been drinking alcohol throughout the day and I thought I might be bloated.

"But on the train on the way home, I was sweating badly and couldn’t sit still due to the pain in my bladder. As soon as we got home to Newcastle, I went straight to A&E."

He was initially told it was UTI and his GP gave him some medication but when symptoms didn't improve he underwent further tests. Nothing was discovered but the pain persisted and in August 2021, he went back to the doctor.

During his check-up, a lump on his prostate was discovered and he was sent to the Freeman Hospital where doctors discovered a tumour.

Phil Dobson is backing the Teenage Cancer Trust's campaign to raise awareness about the most common symptoms of cancer in young people. Credit: NCJ Media

Mr Dobson, a BT worker from Blyth, said: "The staff tried to get me to pass urine, but I couldn’t do it at all.

"They put a catheter in me and drained my bladder. About two litres of urine was drained from me - a normal bladder should only hold around 500ml.

"I was in a lot of pain because my kidneys weren’t passing urine. They did a scan and discovered it was a tumour."

Mr Dobson then received the devastating diagnosis that he had a rare type of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma which doctors have now said is "incurable."

"I was devastated," he said. "I had family in the past who had passed away after cancer. I was determined and hoped that youth would be on my side.

"Naturally, my family was devastated too. I was so healthy, did lots of exercise, and had no previous medical conditions."

Since then he has undergone chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment at the Freeman Hospital.

"The consultant said told me that they think the tumour is incurable, but the maintenance chemo can control it and make sure it’s not coming back," Mr Dobson said.

"I have decided to just live the best life I can. I moved in with my girlfriend earlier this year and we got a dog, which has kept me busy and has been a really great thing for me to look forward to. I also went back to work at BT in July."

Throughout his cancer battle, he has been supported by the Teenager Cancer Trust and now he is backing the charity's campaign to raise awareness of the main signs of cancer in young people.

Research from the charity shows less than half of 18 to 24-year-olds can correctly identify any of the five main signs and symptoms of cancer in young people.

The most recognised sign of cancer within the age group was lumps, bumps and swellings, but 56% were still unable to identify this as a potential red flag.

What are the five main symptoms of cancer in younger people?

  • Lumps, bumps and swellings

  • Mole changes

  • Significant weight change

  • Unexplained tiredness

  • Persistent pain

Mr Dobson said: “Teenage Cancer Trust helped me so much.

"A teenage and young adult clinical nurse specialist on my unit explained what was going to happen to me when I was diagnosed with cancer. It was such a confusing time, but her support was amazing.

"It's difficult when you worry that you are wasting a GP's time, but if you know that something is wrong, don't hesitate to get it checked."

Dr Louise Soanes, chief nurse at the Teenage Cancer Trust, said the charity is calling on the Government to run a public awareness campaign for cancers experienced by young people.

"It can be scary to think about cancer, particularly if you’re a young person, but it can happen to anyone of any age," she said.

"Always listen to your body and if you have concerns never be afraid to seek help – the likelihood is that it isn’t cancer, but it’s always best to check.”

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