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'It's always better to be safe than sorry' My Health.

SITTING on a hospital ward, waiting for biopsy results, Amy Webb couldn't have imagined her experiences would help save her dad John's life.

For while the suspicious lump in the ulcerative colitis sufferer's abdomen turned out to be benign, the anxiety it caused was enough, less than six weeks later, to see her father go visit his own GP - a decision that would lead him to find he had bowel cancer.

"It goes to show that even though it's probably something not too serious any change in your bowel habits could be worth talking to your doctor about," the 26-year-old, from Heworth in Gateshead, said.

"It could be anything from piles or irritable bowel syndrome, to Crohn's disease, colitis or even bowel cancer - but it's better to be safe than sorry." Amy was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease while a human geography student at The University of Sheffield - "I was sat in the Union beer garden one Friday afternoon when my GP called and told me to go to hospital immediately because my blood and iron count was so low that I might need a blood transfusion" - and was soon regularly taking more than 10 tablets a day.

Within a year, with simple anti-inflammatories not working, she was prescribed one of the drugs given to liver transplant patients to stop the body's immune system attacking itself.

"I was 19 when I started to feel ill and experience quite a lot of abdominal pain, which got worse over a few months, then I started passing blood," said Amy, an accountant at South Tyneside Hospital.

"It took quite a long time for me to go to the doctors. I suppose like a lot of people I was possibly worried about what it could be as I'd always been healthy up to that point.

"But I know I was quite lucky as the consultant in the emergency admissions unit on that first day was a gastroenterologist - some people can think they have IBS for years before being given the correct diagnosis."

And though she may not have realised it then luck too was on her family's side when, in the summer 2011 she found herself hospitalised in Lincoln, suffering her own bowel cancer scare.

"They found a mass on my bowel and doctors were worried it could have been cancer - particularly as ulcerative colitis sufferers can have a 40% higher chance of developing it.

"Thankfully I didn't have it, but around that time my dad had suffered similar symptoms and I think as he'd seen what I'd been through, he went to his GP to get checked out. Because of my history he was then referred for further tests and it was discovered he had the very early stages of bowel cancer."

University business lecturer John, 55, who doesn't suffer from IBD, had surgery to remove the cancer and nine months later ran the Great North Run for Crohn's and Colitis UK (NACC).

Amy is now an active member of the charity's Hadrian group, which meets every three months at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital.

"NACC are great," said Amy "A lot of places have local groups, who often have talks and are a useful source of information.

"IBD - both Crohn's and colitis - are unseen things and while I've always had support from my mum and dad and boyfriend Michael, it's also nice to talk to people who know what you are going through."


DIAGNOSIS Amy Webb, 26, of Heworth, who is urging others to get checked out if they experience abdominal discomfort
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 23, 2013
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