Mum-of-Two Died of Bowel Cancer Misdiagnosed as ‘Food Intolerance’

Claire Young, 42, died of incurable stage 4 bowel cancer on February 1, 2021, two days after celebrating her second son’s first birthday.

The tragic death of the ‘lovely’ and ‘genuine’ mum and wife from Warrington, Cheshire, came almost 2 years after a GP and specialist dismissed her symptoms and concerns as a food intolerance.

After learning of her cancer diagnosis, Claire’s main wish was for friends and family to raise bowel cancer awareness, especially among young people.

‘Turned Away’ Because She Was ‘Too Young’ to Have Cancer

Through its “Never Too Young” campaign, the charity Bowel Cancer UK reports that over 2,600 young people are diagnosed yearly with bowel cancer.  However younger people are being turned away because they are ‘too young to have bowel cancer’, denying them an early diagnosis, treatment, and care. This was the case with Claire, who did not get the correct diagnosis until it was too late.

She visited her GP in 2018 complaining of bowel problems. At the time, her symptoms were wrongly diagnosed as a type of food intolerance—even after a consultant referral following bowel cancer concerns.

According to Claire’s sister Joanne Gill, “she kept being turned away with people telling her she was too young and that it would be a food intolerance.”

Upon referral for further tests, Claire was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer on August 3, 2020. By this time, the disease had spread to her liver.

Her sister Joanne said:

When she was diagnosed, they said she wasn’t able to have any treatment, and she literally had weeks to live, which we found hard to believe.

“She looked fit and well, and for someone to turn around and say you’re going to die in a few weeks, we were like ‘what?‘”

After attempts with palliative chemotherapy and an immunotherapy trial, Claire was discharged from hospital.

She spent her last few days at home with her loving family before passing away on February 1, leaving behind sons Bobby Jr and Ollie, husband Bobby, and sister Joanne Gill.

Her sister said:

She was so loved. She was such a genuine, lovely person. I just hope that, in some way, she’s looking down, and she can see what respect and love people have for her.

“She was just amazing. Her life was for those boys. She worked so hard and got a good career behind her so she could spend time with them and didn’t have to work full time. Ollie is going to be too young to remember her, which is the sad thing, but I think little Bobby has hopefully got all those memories with her.”

Understanding Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is a disease of the large bowel that mainly develops from polyps (pre-cancerous growths). Statistics by charity Bowel Cancer UK show that it is the second biggest killer and fourth most common cancer in the UK.

Whilst the NHS automatically sends bowel cancer screening kits to registered people in the 60-74 age group and on-request to over-75s every 2 years, a 2022 study published in the Journal of Medical Screening found that most cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed outside the official NHS screening programme. The findings highlight the importance of knowing your body even if you are not in the screening age group.

What are the main warning signs of bowel cancer?

 According to NHS UK, 9 in 10 people present at least one of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent discomfort, bloating, or pain in your lower abdomen.
  • Persistent change in bowel movements, including frequency (more often) and consistency (runny).
  • Persistent blood in your stool that is not associated with soreness.

It is recommended that you visit your GP if any of the potential symptoms persist for at least 3 weeks, irrespective of your age.

‘Raise Awareness of What’s Happened’

The Liverpool Echo reports that Claire’s final wish was to raise bowel cancer awareness for younger people by supporting causes such as Bowel Cancer UK’s “Never Too Young” campaign.

She said to us when she came home when her treatment wasn’t working, ‘will you make sure you get involved in any way you can for my boys and raise awareness of what’s happened?’

“And ‘if it just stops one family going through what we’re going through, that’s what’s important,'” said Claire’s sister.

After her death, Claire’s friends and family organised the “Miles for Claire” sponsored walk from her home to Delamere Forest in support of Bowel Cancer UK. The initiative attracted a large turnout that raised over £18,000, prompting a second “Miles for Claire” walk – organised on June 26, 2022. The family also set up a Just Giving fundraising page with over £14,455 in donations to the cancer charity.

Compensation For Mistakes in Diagnosing Bowel Cancer

Devonshires Claims’ experienced cancer misdiagnosis solicitors support victims of medical negligence to make a bowel cancer misdiagnosis claim on a No Win No Fee basis.

For more information on making a bowel cancer misdiagnosis claim or to start your free case evaluation, contact our expert solicitors on 0333 900 8787, email or complete our online form.

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