Man diagnosed with 'incurable cancer' after struggling to wee

A man from Northumberland was diagnosed with ‘incurable cancer’ at the age of just 24 after struggling to go to the toilet.

Phil Dobson first noticed something wasn’t right when he had trouble passing urine in July 2021.

Thinking it was due to drinking too much alcohol while on a city break, he carried on as normal, but then on a train ride experienced severe pain in his bladder and went straight to A&E.

‘On the second day of the trip, I started having trouble passing urine,’ Phil said.

‘I felt like I always needed a wee, but nothing was coming out. I thought nothing of it because I had been drinking alcohol throughout the day and I thought I might be bloated.

‘But on the train on the way home, I was sweating badly and couldn’t sit still due to the pain in my bladder.’

Phil was initially told it was UTI and his GP gave him some medication but when symptoms didn’t improve he underwent further tests.

Nothing was discovered but the pain persisted and in August 2021, Phil went back to the doctor.

During this check-up, a lump on his prostate was discovered, and later a tumour.

‘The staff tried to get me to pass urine, but I couldn’t do it at all,’ Phil said.

‘They put a catheter in me and drained my bladder. About two litres of urine was drained from me – a normal bladder should only hold around 500ml.

‘I was in a lot of pain because my kidneys weren’t passing urine. They did a scan and discovered it was a tumour.’

Phil then received the devastating diagnosis that he had a rare type of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma which doctors have now said is ‘incurable.’

‘I was devastated,’ Phil said. ‘I had family in the past who had passed away after cancer. I was determined and hoped that youth would be on my side.

‘Naturally, my family was devastated too. I was so healthy, did lots of exercise, and had no previous medical conditions.’

Since then, Phil has undergone chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

‘The consultant said told me that they think the tumour is incurable, but the maintenance chemo can control it and make sure it’s not coming back,’ Phil said.

‘I have decided to just live the best life I can. I moved in with my girlfriend earlier this year and we got a dog, which has kept me busy and has been a really great thing for me to look forward to. I also went back to work at BT in July.’

Throughout his cancer battle, Phil has been supported by the Teenager Cancer Trust.

Now he is backing the charity’s campaign to raise awareness of the main signs of cancer in young people.

It comes after new research from the charity has revealed that less than half of 18- to 24-year-olds can correctly identify any of the five main signs and symptoms of cancer in young people.

The most recognised sign of cancer within the age group was lumps, bumps and swellings, but 56% were still unable to identify this as a potential red flag.

‘Teenage Cancer Trust helped me so much,’ Phil said.

‘A teenage and young adult clinical nurse specialist on my unit explained what was going to happen to me when I was diagnosed with cancer. It was such a confusing time, but her support was amazing.

‘It’s difficult when you worry that you are wasting a GP’s time, but if you know that something is wrong, don’t hesitate to get it checked.’

Dr Louise Soanes, chief nurse at the Teenage Cancer Trust, said the charity is calling on the Government to run a public awareness campaign for cancers experienced by young people.

‘It can be scary to think about cancer, particularly if you’re a young person, but it can happen to anyone of any age,’ she said.

‘Always listen to your body and if you have concerns never be afraid to seek help – the likelihood is that it isn’t cancer, but it’s always best to check.’

The Teenage Cancer Trust says theses are the main symptoms of cancer in younger people

  • Lumps, bumps and swellings
  • Mole changes
  • Significant weight change
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Persistent pain

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