County Durham mum whose daughter died of bowel cancer says lack of awareness is 'shocking'

family photo
Laura Corrigan was 37 when she died of bowel cancer in 2020. Credit: Family Photograph

A mother from County Durham, whose daughter died of bowel cancer, has told ITV News Tyne Tees she is "shocked" by new figures, which suggest 42% of people in the North East do not know a single symptom of bowel cancer.

Jane Corrigan's daughter, Laura, left two young sons when she died in 2020 aged 37. She had symptoms of bowel cancer for years before, but was told she was too young to have the disease.

Responding to the new figures, obtained by a Bowel Cancer UK survey, Ms Corrigan said: "Well if you're bleeding from the rectum, you should go and get some help straight away. I'm shocked to think that 40% don't know that.

"I don't know if they are mostly young people who think they can't get it. I really am shocked to think that that's the case."

  • Video report by Kris Jepson.

Ms Corrigan explained how her daughter suffered from some of the tell-tale symptoms, but had been told it was another, less serious condition.

She said: "She was bleeding from the rectum, but she was told she had IBS, and stomach pains, they were her initial symptoms, really. Finally she got diagnosed when her second baby was nine months old. At that stage she’d lost two stone in the months since he’d been born."

A colonoscopy found her cancer was stage four and had spread. She died three years later.

Laura Corrigan, who was a mum-of-two, died of bowel cancer in 2020. Credit: Family Photograph

In 2020 there were 2,168 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in the North East and North Cumbria, according to the National Disease Registration Service and the new survey by Bowel Cancer UK also suggests 71% of people in the North East are not aware it is the second biggest cancer killer.

Chief executive of the charity, Genevieve Edwards, told ITV News: "If you’ve had a change in bowel habit over, maybe a couple of weeks, go and see your GP.

"The other four (symptoms) to look out for are any kind of bleeding or blood in your poo, that’s a red flag; pain or a lump in your tummy that doesn’t go away; extreme fatigue, for no reason you’re very, very tired and you can’t explain it, and the same with weight loss; weight loss that you can’t explain.

"Now those could all be something else and mostly it will be something else, so you’re most likely going to rule bowel cancer out, but if it is bowel cancer and you’ve diagnosed early, then 97% will survive stage one bowel cancer. It is very treatable."

A survey has found 42% of people in the North East do not know any symptoms of bowel cancer. Credit: ITV News

One project funded by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation was launched in 2019 in response to tackle the North East’s particularly high bowel cancer rates.

Professor Colin Rees, professor of gastroenterology at Newcastle University, runs the project. He explained it is vital this research is carried out to reduce deaths in the region.

He said: "The North East has poor outcomes for bowel cancer. It has higher incidence rates than any other part of the country, and unfortunately the outcomes in the North East are worse than any other part of the country.

"So it’s a really important area for us to target in the North East, for people to present for screening, present early if they have symptoms, and for us to collectively work to improve the outcomes from bowel cancer."

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