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25th June 2024 Latest News Bowel Cancer

Renee’s battle for a diagnosis 

Renee Smith Bowel Cancer 1

Renee Smith was just 33 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer.  

Despite presenting with ‘excruciating’ abdominal pain and vomiting, Renee had to fight to be taken seriously after her symptoms were dismissed as simply period pain or food poisoning because of her age.  

Renee spent a month in and out of hospital, dropping to 50kg because the pain was so bad she couldn’t keep food down.  

Renee, left, after surgery and before starting chemotherapy.

After practically begging for a CT scan, doctors discovered Renee had a swollen bowel and was placed on the waitlist for a colonoscopy before being sent home.  

She was told it would be at least an eight to 10-week wait for the procedure. Two days later the pain was back.  

Renee was rushed to hospital where she spent another week before she was finally given an in-patient colonoscopy.  

“I kept being told the same thing, there’s a long waitlist for a colonoscopy and it just kept getting brushed off,” she said.  

“But when they did the colonoscopy, they saw it was bowel cancer and the reason I was having the pain and vomiting was because of a bowel obstruction. It was classic symptoms, but it was ignored.”  

During surgery to remove parts of her bowel, surgeons discovered the cancer had spread to Renee’s lymph nodes.  

Renee promptly began chemotherapy which was ultimately successful, having been given the all-clear from her four-year scan earlier this year.  

But she said if she hadn’t fought to get the CT and subsequent colonoscopy earlier, she probably wouldn’t be sharing her story today.  

Renee during a charity walk to raise money for cancer research.

Renee, is a senior genomics specialist at SAHMRI and is assisting Assoc Prof Erin Symonds as a collaborator on bowel cancer research.  

Their research will trial new screening tests to work out which patients need colonoscopy the most urgently, and she hopes that this project could have a major impact on bowel cancer treatment in Australia. 

“My goal is to change things for people that are in my position in the future, it shouldn’t have been so hard to get diagnosed and it shouldn’t be such a long wait for colonoscopies,” she said.  

“The system has to change, but it won’t change until people are more vocal about their own care.”