A grandfather has told how his being unable to flush his faeces down the toilet led doctors to spot his pancreatic cancer.
Chris Davey, 59, of Bristol, wasn’t too concerned about his floating stools – but made note of it to tell his GP at his next check-up.
The roofer also suffered with itchy hands and feet and yellowing round the eyes, which he also decided to flag to his doctor in April 2016.
His quick-thinking GP immediately recognised the symptoms as being a sign of pancreatic cancer – one of the deadliest forms.
Mr Davey was diagnosed with the disease two weeks later. He needed an eight-hour operation to ‘re-plumb’ his insides to rid him of the cancer, before months of chemotherapy to keep it at bay.
Mr Davey only survived his diagnosis because it was spotted so early – allowing him to receive surgery, the only way of ‘curing’ the disease.
He told MailOnline: ‘I’d never smoked or drank a lot and was into my sport. It was all quite a shock. It started with terribly itchy feet and hands. You wouldn’t believe it. It was off the scale and like torture.
‘My stools had changed completely. They weren’t flushing and there was an unusual smell. Not necessarily bad, just different.’
Light coloured floating stools are also a sign of jaundice, which was the cause for Mr Davey’s itchy skin and yellowing eyes.
Jaundice is when bilirubin, a component of bile made in the liver, builds up in the blood.
Bile travels through the bile duct into the pancreas, but if the bile duct is blocked, fats are unable to be broken down in the body because enzymes that digest fatty substances aren’t released.
Therefore stools can become greasy and can float in the toilet – meaning they are harder to flush, according to Pancreatic Cancer UK.
Pancreatic cancer strikes 9,100 people in UK and 56,770 in the US each year, according to estimates.
A quarter of patients with the disease die within a month of being diagnosed, and three quarters will die within a year.
Three years after his treatment ended, Mr Davey is raising awareness of the lethal disease – for which there is no screening test for.
Recalling his check-up with his GP, he said: ‘She said, “It’s really good you have written this down. But I don’t like the look of it”.’
After some further medical tests, including an MRI scan, Mr Davey – who has six grand-children – received the results.
He said: ‘My GP phoned me, while I was still at work, and she said I had a tumour. It’s all a bit of a blur. It was a shock to the family. Rachael, my wife, was devastated.’
Mr Davey said that, after being told the disease had been spotted early, a nurse told him: ‘You don’t realise how lucky you are, my friend’.
‘That really stuck in my head, especially when I found out how bad the statistics were for pancreatic cancer,’ he added.
Surgery is the only possible cure for pancreatic cancer but less than ten per cent of patients are able to have the operation.
This is because by the time they have been diagnosed, it is too late and their cancer has spread.