BBC newsreader George Alagiah has been given less than a 10 per cent chance of surviving the next five years, according to reports.
The stalwart of BBC news reporting was first diagnosed with the disease in 2014, and underwent 17 rounds of chemotherapy as well as five operations when the cancer spread to his liver and lymph nodes.
His bowel cancer is now at stage 4, and the 62-year-old discovered it had returned just before Christmas 2017.
George has said that while he is fully aware of the fact his cancer cannot be cured at this late stage, he says he may well have been luckier if he’d lived in Scotland.
In Scotland, it is common practice for cancer screenings to happen every year from the age of 50 onwards, whereas they do not start until the age of 60 in England.
If caught earlier – i.e. in stage 1 – then the survival rate of bowel cancer is close to one hundred per cent.
Always knew cancer could come back but still tough dealing with disappointment. Harder for my family. I know what I have to do: stay calm, stay content, stay fit and let doctors do their best.
— George Alagiah (@BBCAlagiah) January 15, 2018
In an interview with The Sunday Times, George said:
Had I been screened, I could have been picked up. Had they had screening at 50, like they do in Scotland… I would have been screened at least three times and possibly four by the time I was 58 and this would have been caught at the stage of a little polyp: snip, snip…
We know that if you catch bowel cancer early, survival rates are tremendous. I have thought: why have the Scots got it and we don’t?
George is now supporting the campaign which is being spearheaded by Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer to make cancer screening more available to everyone in England from the age of 50.
My cancer was caught late, very late. Earlier screening is the key. Simply no reason why others should have to go through all the treatment that I’ve had. https://t.co/QTxWafmxZO
— George Alagiah (@BBCAlagiah) March 25, 2018
He says that when he was told his cancer had returned, it was almost worse than discovering it the first time round.
The first time you are just stunned and shocked. But somehow, when you think you have made it well, I might still make it… The disappointment was pretty bad.
George was diagnosed with bowel cancer when he discovered blood in his stools on a family skiing holiday in 2014.
He and his family – he has a wife Frances and two sons Adam, 31, and Matt, 27 – have all been tested for cancer and will be able to get regular screenings.
Speaking of keeping positive, George said:
I will not pretend it has bene easy and we have had what we call our ‘wobbly moments’ and there have been a few of those and they hijack you at all sorts of times. We could be enjoying a nice walk and something will trigger this feeling.
Those wobbly or darker moments are all to do with, for me, visualising my family without my presence.
It is not ego, it is just that we are a unit. We love each other and I could break up that unit not through any fault of my own, and that is tough.
Now though, George says he is feeling ‘evangelical’ about the importance of screening, saying you’d be ‘absolutely mad’ to risk going through the difficulties he has faced.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm).