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"The surgeon's words hit me like a ton of bricks."

Brent was only 36 years old when he received a life-changing cancer diagnosis.

He had awoken from anaesthesia after a routine colonoscopy. A nurse called in the surgeon to discuss the results. To Brent's astonishment, the surgeon said the word nobody ever wants to hear: "cancer".

"The rest of the conversation blurred as I grappled with the devastating news," says Brent. "My mind raced with thoughts of my wife, children, and family."

Brent had advanced cancer of the colon. When caught early, bowel cancer is very treatable. When advanced cases are detected, the risks are much higher. For Brent's diagnosis of stage 3C bowel cancer, the five-year survival rate is considerably less.

Brent's first challenge was the heart-wrenching task of breaking the news to his wife, a nurse. "Her knowledge and dedication became my lifeline," says Brent. "She supported and advocated for my health with unwavering commitment."

The treatment journey would not be easy. Major surgery and a course of chemotherapy would be necessary to give Brent the best chance.

Bowel cancer affects people at any age

Bowel cancer is the deadliest form of cancer for Australians aged 25 to 44, and global rates are rising rapidly among adolescents and young adults.

Early detection is vital. When detected early, bowel cancer has a relatively high rate of full recovery. That is why regular screening is so important.

Brent was a young man at the time of his diagnosis. However, there was a history of bowel cancer in his family. In addition, Brent had a condition called serrated polyposis syndrome. This caused polyps in his colon. Those factors meant that Brent had an above-average risk of colon cancer.

For that reason, Brent underwent annual colonoscopies. Over time, he needed to have a number of procedures to remove polyps from his colon. Eventually, Brent's hospitals stopped screening him regularly.

It was only when Brent began experiencing unexplained abdominal pain and diarrhoea that his GP realised he was overdue for another screening. This led to the colonoscopy that discovered Brent had advanced cancer.

Delayed or missed screenings increase the danger

Brent and his family knew the importance of regular screenings. They had made sure to follow medical advice.

However, Brent was transferred between hospitals, and it is alleged that during the transfer, important information about Brent's elevated risk levels was not passed on to his new hospital.

In 2018, when Brent had a colonoscopy at the new hospital, a number of further polyps were found in his colon. Despite this, the hospital decided he wouldn’t need another colonoscopy for three years, and when the three years came up, he wasn’t called back in. Brent’s next colonoscopy – the one that diagnosed his bowel cancer – was in 2023.

It is alleged that the hospital should have done more regular bowel cancer surveillance after the colonoscopy in 2018. Instead, Brent missed crucial years in which his cancer developed. It is alleged that if Brent had been appropriately followed up by the hospital, he would have had a much better prognosis.

Chemotherapy and surgery: the challenge of treatment

After the shock of his initial diagnosis, Brent faced a difficult treatment journey.

Soon after Brent's diagnosis, he had to have urgent surgery to remove most of his colon. The surgery took place over multiple rounds and included serious complications and painful recovery.

Shortly after the surgery, Brent had to commence a course of chemotherapy. "The treatment's common side effects were daunting, but I braced myself, determined to endure for my family," he says. Brent faced his chemotherapy courageously and was able to complete the course, despite experiencing extreme physical reactions over the three and a half months of treatment.

Thankfully, Brent's treatment was successful. With the support and advocacy of his family, Brent made it through to a condition of "NED" - "no evidence of disease". "I am immensely grateful for my survival," says Brent. "Many others face even harsher outcomes or lose their battle with cancer.

Brent's life is forever changed. Brent was a fit and healthy CrossFit trainer and worked in the construction industry. His surgery changed his life, leading to permanent changes to his diet, digestion, and sleep. The traumatic and painful process of receiving the diagnosis and undergoing difficult treatment has left a lasting psychological impact.

Brent’s recovery and the path forward

Brent is thankful for his outcome. But it is upsetting for him to know that if he had been called in for more frequent screenings, his current health status would likely be much better. His hospitals allegedly failed in their duty of care towards him. "Their oversight allowed a disease to progress within me, leading to the loss of a vital body part and lifelong biological changes due to the aggressive treatment required," says Brent.

After receiving his diagnosis, Brent sought help from Maurice Blackburn about his options.

Bowel cancer takes too many lives, and it affects many more. Regular and frequent screenings are the key to minimising the risks.

If you or a loved one has suffered because of a failed diagnosis or negligent medical treatment, our team of expert medical negligence lawyers are here to help you understand your legal options and to achieve the best possible outcome for you. 

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Our team of expert medical negligence lawyers are here to help you understand your legal options and to achieve the best possible outcome for you. 

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