50+ health * Healthy living

Simon MacCorkindale has incurable cancer

Zone default image Casualty star diagnosed three years ago

Former Casualty star Simon MacCorkindale revealed yesterday he has terminal cancer. The 57 year old actor, who played consultant Harry Harper in the popular BBC television series, was initially diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2006, after suffering from stomach cramps while filming in Bristol.

He kept quiet about his condition as he underwent surgery to remove a section of his bowel. At the time he expected to make a full recovery. However, a year later he discovered the cancer had spread to his lungs and was incurable.

He is currently undergoing chemotherapy and exploring various alternative therapies. The actor has been told he may only have three years left to live.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cause of death due to cancer in the UK. Each year, more than 35,000 people are diagnosed with the disease - 100 people a day.

If caught early enough, it is one of the most curable of cancers. Unfortunately, many people delay going to visit their GP because they are embarrassed about discussing their symptoms.


The symptoms of bowel cancer may vary depending on the position of the growth in the colon. However, common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom (don't assume it's piles!)
  • Changes in normal bowel habits such as looser stools or diarrhoea which persists for several weeks
  • Abdominal pain and/or an abdominal lump in your side
  • Anaemia and tiredness
  • A feeling that you still need to go to the toilet when you have already been

Who is at risk?

Everyone. People wrongly assume it is an old person's disease.

Three quarters of bowel cancer is diagnosed in over-65s, but it can happen to anyone. However, some people are more at risk than others. Risk factors include:

  • Having a family history of the disease. Having a first-degree relative with the condition almost doubles the average risk of disease

  • People who have had ulcerative colitis for more than 20 years have a 30% greater than average risk

  • A poor diet. A diet rich in red and processed meat and low in fruit, vegetables and fibre increases the risk of developing the disease. Currently about 70% of adults in England do not eat the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day

  • Obesity. At least 10% of cases has been attributed to being obese

  • Alcohol. Research has shown that drinking more than 4 units of alcohol each day adds to your risk

  • Being inactive

If you have a strong family history of the disease you may be eligible for regular screening. You should contact your GP to discuss this.

Bowel cancer screening kits are available for everyone aged 60 to 69 who is registered with a GP. Early results have shown these have identified people who were unaware they had the disease. From 2010, the kits are expected to be available for all men and women over the age of 70.

This article was published on Mon 9 November 2009

Image © .shock - Fotolia.com

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