A fit and healthy 41-year-old father from Richmond in London has opened up about being diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer with the hope of raising awareness about the bowel cancer warning sign to look out for.
Speaking to The Independent, Geoffrey Seymour recalled how he'd always been healthy before his diagnosis, and loved playing tennis, basketball and cricket. But in March 2021, just weeks before his 41st birthday, he spotted blood in his stool and went to his GP to have it checked out.
After being referred to hospital, Seymour learned he had bowel cancer that had already spread from his colon to his liver. He went on to have five cycles of chemotherapy every three weeks, which initially reduced the lesions in his liver and prompted an "optimistic" feeling.
However, Seymour suffered with extreme side effects from the chemotherapy and developed sores on his face that left him too embarrassed to leave the house. Since then, the father has been fundraising to receive dendritic cell therapy – where a personalised vaccine is created in a lab with the aim of stimulating the immune system – on offer in Germany.
Research in this area is still at an early stage and so the treatment is not cheap – just one injection in Germany, on 17 October, cost Seymour £17,000. He is now waiting to see if it was enough to help him, while continuing to fundraise to pay for it.
"Dendritic cell therapy is a type of vaccine that can treat cancer," explains specialist cancer information nurse at Cancer Research UK, Caroline Geraghty. "Dendritic cells help [the] immune system recognise and attack abnormal cells, such as cancer cells."
"To make the vaccine, scientists grow dendritic cells alongside cancer cells in the lab. The vaccine then stimulates your immune system to attack the cancer. It’s still being researched, so the evidence base is not yet strong enough for it to be available in the UK," she adds. "Decisions about the best course of treatment must be based on sound evidence of benefit – so it’s important patients talk to their doctor about any alternative treatment they might be considering."
Geraghty goes on: "Thanks to ongoing developments in research, there continues to be many new cancer drugs showing effectiveness in clinical trials, providing potential options for people with cancer.
"But while regulators have improved the speed at which they assess these for routine NHS use, there are still, unfortunately, times when particular drugs aren’t yet easily accessible for people who may benefit. We understand how frustrating this can be."
Bowel cancer warning signs
According to the NHS, the symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill. However, it's worth trying simple treatments for a short time to see if they get better.
More than 90% of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms:
A persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain
Blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids) – this makes it unlikely the cause is haemorrhoids
Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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