EMMERDALE fans were left stunned this evening as the village veterinarian Vanessa Woodfield was revealed to have bowel cancer.
The character's worrying news was unveiled to viewers by evil Pierce Harris who is currently holding her hostage.
The storyline is set to play out on the ITV soap over the coming months as Vanessa, played by Michelle Hardwick, comes to terms with her diagnosis and symptoms, and shares her concerns and undergoes extensive treatment.
Emmerdale producers have been working closely with Bowel Cancer UK regarding the storyline – who are urging people to learn the symptoms.
Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “Although bowel cancer is more common in the over 50s, it can affect people of all ages.
"More than 2,500 people under 50, like Vanessa, are diagnosed with the disease in the UK every year.
"This storyline will help to raise awareness of bowel cancer, and we hope it encourages viewers to recognise the symptoms and visit their GP if they’re concerned."
Actress Michelle, who plays Vanessa, added: “I hope to do Vanessa’s story justice.
"I was actually really shocked to learn that bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer, but diagnosed early is treatable."
The signs of bowel cancer
With this in mind, here we take you through the early warning signs of bowel cancer you need to know that could save your life…
There are several possible causes of bleeding from your bottom, of blood in your poo.
Bright red blood could come from swollen blood vessels, haemorrhoids or piles, in your back passage.
Dark red or black blood could come from your bowel or stomach.
Blood in your stools is one of the key signs of bowel cancer, so it's important to mention it to your doctor so they can investigate.
2. Loo habits
It's important to tell your GP if you have noticed any changes in your bowel habits, that lasts three weeks or longer.
It's especially important if you have also noticed signs of blood in your poo.
You might notice you need to go to the loo more often, you might have looser stools or feel like you're not going enough or fully emptying your bowels.
Don't be embarrassed, your GP will have heard a lot worse! Speak up and get it checked.
3. Weight loss
This is less common than the other symptoms, but an important one to be aware of.
If you've lost weight and don't really know why, it's worth mentioning to your GP.
You may not feel like eating, feel sick, bloated and not hungry.
4. Feeling tired
Bowel cancer that causes bleeding can cause a lack of iron in the body – anaemia.
If you develop anaemia you're likely to feel tired and your skin might look pale.
5. Pain or lump
As with lots of other forms of cancer, a lump or pain can be a sign of bowel cancer.
It's most likely you'll notice a pain or lump in your stomach or back passage.
See your GP if it doesn't go away, or if it affects how you eat or sleep.
The Sun launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign in 2018 – which urges everyone to talk about their insides and their number 2s, in a bid to beat bowel cancer – the second deadliest form of the disease in the UK.
The disease claims 16,000 lives a year – but it can be cured it's caught early enough.
Sun columnist Deborah James, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 35, has called for everyone to learn the red-flag symptoms of bowel cancer – and act on them if they are worried.
She told us: "Actually many cancers are preventable and curable if they have been caught early.
The Sun's No Time 2 Lose campaign
The Sun's No Time 2 Lose campaign called for bowel cancer screening in England to start at 50 NOT 60.
Experts said the move could save more than 4,500 lives a year.
Bowel cancer is the second deadliest form of the disease, but it can be cured if it's caught early – or better still prevented.
Caught at stage 1 – the earliest stage – patients have a 97 per cent chance of living for five years or longer.
But catch it at stage 4 – when it's already spread – and that chance plummets to just seven per cent.
In April, Lauren Backler, whose mum died of the disease at the age of 55, joined forces with The Sun to launch the No Time 2 Lose campaign, also supported by Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer. Donate here.
Lauren delivered a petition to the Department of Health complete with almost 450,000 signatures, to put pressure on the Government to make this vital change – one that could save thousands of lives every year, and the NHS millions.
Last summer after pressure from The Sun and campaigners, the Government agreed to lower the screening age, but a date for roll out has yet to be confirmed.
We all deserve an equal chance to beat this disease, regardless of where we live.
We know bowel cancer is more likely after the age of 50 – so it makes sense to screen from then.
Plus, it's got to save the NHS money in the long-run, catching the disease before patients need serious and expensive treatments.
It's a no brainer, thousands of lives are at stake every year.
You can still sign Lauren's petition to show your support -click HERE to add your signature.
“If you are concerned about anything always, always get it checked.
“Don’t be embarrassed and don’t think it’s better to bury it because actually if you are faced with a late diagnosis you would do anything to get cancer early – I should know.
“I’m lucky to be here alive today but too many of my fellow cancer buddies are not.”
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