First Dates’ Merlin Griffiths early bowel cancer symptoms he ignored due to ‘male bravado’

First Dates’ Merlin Griffiths was diagnosed with bowel cancer last year, admitting his journey with the disease has been “long, painful and ugly.”

He also admitted that it was his “male bravado” which delayed his diagnosis as he chose to ignore his early symptoms rather than seeking help from his GP.

Merlin is currently battling a stage three tumour for bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer, sometimes referred to as colorectal cancer, is a disease which affects a person’s large bowel.

“Cancer is when abnormal cells start to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way,” explains Cancer Research UK.

“The cells can grow into surrounding tissues or organs, and may spread to other areas of the body.”

According to Bowel Cancer UK, a shocking two in five people cannot name even one symptom of the disease.

Merlin appeared on BBC Breakfast discussing his cancer journey.

When asked by presenter Jon Kay how he was doing, Merlin answered: “Very well, thank you very much. All things considered. On the road to recovery, it’s long and slow but we’ll get there.

“I should have got there earlier but I did get there. I think it’s very important that people follow up these symptoms. The sooner you catch it better it is for you.”

Early signs of bowel cancer
Bowel cancer symptoms can be subtle, so it’s important to be aware of them so they don’t get missed.

Here are some of the early signs of bowel cancer, which could help lead to a diagnosis.

  • Bleeding from the back passage (rectum) or blood in your poo
  • A change in your normal bowel habit, such as looser poo, pooing more often or constipation
  • A lump that your doctor can feel in your back passage or tummy (abdomen), more commonly on the right side
  • A feeling of needing to strain in your back passage (as if you need to poo), even after opening your bowels
  • Losing weight
  • Pain in your abdomen or back passage
  • Tiredness and breathlessness
  • Cramping pains in the abdomen
  • Feeling bloated
  • Constipation and being unable to pass wind
  • Being sick

According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you’ve had any symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.

What symptoms did Merlin have?
For Merlin, his early bowel cancer symptoms included a pain in his abdomen which included changes to his bowel movements, but he had delayed checking this further for months before he eventually saw a doctor.

“It was that typical male reticence thing of going – ‘oh I’m fine, it’s nothing really’, ‘I’ll be alright,’” he had said at the time.

He is not alone in this as many men are known to put off discussing health-related issues with a medical professional.

According to 2014 data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are three times as likely as women to have gone without a visit to a doctor or other healthcare provider within the previous five years.

Dr Jamin Brahmbhatt sites the three top reasons for this delay which include either “being too busy, fearing that the doctor might find a serious problem, and wanting to skip uncomfortable body exams like prostate checks.”

Speaking to The Sun, Merth added: “I tried to convince myself that the pain just wasn’t important. I managed to pull the wool over my own eyes for a worryingly long time.”

According to Cleveland Clinic MENtion It campaign, a recent survey on men and their health needs revealed:

  • 72% of respondents said they would rather be doing household chores, like cleaning toilets, than going to the doctor.
  • 65% of respondents said they avoid going to the doctor as long as possible.
  • 20% admitted they aren’t always honest with their doctors about their health.
  • 37% said they had withheld information from their doctors in the past, specifically because they weren’t ready to deal with the potential diagnosis that might result if they told the truth.