Steve: 'Cancer need not involve chemotherapy if you catch it early’

Haringey man Steve Browne had bowel cancer in his 40s. Now he’s urging other men to get an early diagnosis.

I was an active, fit and healthy man.

I had had a history of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) so whenever I had stomach cramps I put it down to IBS. Either that, or doing too many sit-ups.

I’d also once had piles for which the GP had given me a treatment. So when I had a bit of bleeding from the bottom, I thought it was piles.

In other words, stomach cramps or a bit of bleeding I didn’t take much notice of. I didn’t put the two together because I didn’t know the symptoms of bowel cancer.

But they were getting more pronounced. There was blood on the toilet paper. It would go for a day or two and then come back again. As men do I ignored it for about four months. 

I spoke to my wife. That was embarrassing even to your partner. She told me to go to the GP but even then I waited three weeks before I actually went.

The GP sent me for blood tests straight away and I had a colonoscopy where they put a camera on a tube up your backside. They found a cancerous polyp. The result was a six hour operation in which they cut a bit of my bowel out. 

None of this was fun or easy but this is the point: because the cancer was caught early, I didn’t need to have radiotherapy or chemotherapy so I’ve only had to recover from the operation itself. I’ve met people who had the full treatment and realise how much quicker and fuller my recovery has been because of that early diagnosis.

Physically I’m fine now and my consultant says I’m all clear.

I’m wanted to become a Haringey Health Champion because had I been better informed I might have seen the GP quicker. I was very tired at work, for example, but again I didn’t put all the symptoms together.

I didn’t take notice of my wife until three weeks had passed. But I think if you hear it from another man, someone you can identify with, you might take it more seriously. What we need to overcome is male pride and ego which makes it difficult to ask for help. 

I was feeling down immediately after my operation so I phoned the Beating Bowel Cancer helpline and they made a real difference.

Yes, it a bit embarrassing at times but let me tell you, the doctors aren’t embarrassed so why should you be? ‘There’s blood on my toilet tissue’ isn’t difficult to say, is it?

  • Steve Browne was a Haringey Health Champion and an ambassador for the Haringey Man MOT project.
  • Bowel cancer FAQs
This article reflects the experience of the individual. It is not health information from the MHF under the terms of the NHS England Information Standard.


The Men’s Health Forum need your support

It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. So we’re asking.

In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.

It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.

We’re not asking you to look at images of pity, we’re just asking you to look around at the society you live in, at the men you know and at the families with sons, fathers and grandads missing.

Here’s our fund-raising page - please chip in if you can.

Registered with the Fundraising Regulator