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Woman Refused Bowel Cancer Test After Discovering She Was Pregnant

A Melbourne woman has spoken out about being refused a test for bowel cancer because she was pregnant.

Rachel Hustlercn, 32, last year began noticing blood every time she went to the toilet. Blood tests for bowel cancer came back negative, but when her symptoms worsened in January she returned to the doctor.

She was booked in for a colonoscopy to investigate her enlarged bowel, but by the time her appointment came round she discovered she was four weeks pregnant. To her horror, the endoscopy clinic refused the treatment and cancelled the appointment.

"They just said that they can't do a colonoscopy on a pregnant lady," Rachel told The Project.

Rachel Hustler was desperate for answers. Photo: The Project.

While the procedure can trigger a miscarriage when performed in the first trimester of pregnancy, it won't do so if performed carefully, according to Professor Graham Newstead of Bowel Cancer Australia.

Still -- it was a risk Rachel was comfortable taking, given the ongoing nature of her symptoms.

The endoscopy clinic refused.

READ MORE: 8 Simple Ways To Avoid One Of The Deadliest Types Of Cancer

What followed was weeks of frustration. She begged her GP to refer her to another clinic but was told it might only be haemorrhoids. A leading gastroenterologist -- the brother of a friend -- booked her in for a less invasive procedure known as a sigmoidoscopy, which revealed nothing.

By this point, she was 12 weeks pregnant and was told she'd have to wait until after her pregnancy for a colonoscopy, taking blood tests in the meantime.

Rachel was desperate for a colonoscopy to find out if she had cancer. Photo: The Project.

However, her symptoms worsened. Finally, in early July, she underwent a second sigmoidoscopy, where they discovered a tumour.

"That's something I never want to go through again, when the doctor said, 'Just come into the consult room, there's something I want to speak to you about'," she said.

Rachel was diagnosed with stage-three bowel cancer.  It's generally thought to be an 'older person's disease' but one in 10 people with bowel cancer are under 50. In fact, it's the deadliest form of cancer for Aussies aged 25 to 29.

READ MORE: Bowel Cancer On The Rise For Young People

"It was so frustrating to see her try to get answers and not be able to get them," Rachel's husband Jared told the program.

"All the doctors kept telling me I was too young," Rachel said, adding she was upset and shaken when she finally received the diagnosis, but not shocked. However, she wasn't able to undergo surgery or begin chemotherapy until after her daughter was born.

Last week -- just over a month after receiving her diagnosis -- Alya was delivered 10 weeks early via Caesarean, becoming a new sister to boys Kyan, 7, and Elias, 3.

Baby Alya was born 10 weeks early. Photo: The Project.

She wants to encourage people to fight for their own treatment, even after being told 'no'.

"I just want people to take from my story that if you do feel something is wrong with you, keep persisting, keep going to the doctors, don’t give up," she said.

A fundraiser for Rachel and her family has raised almost $40,000, with the funds helping keep the family afloat while Rachel and Jared's small business takes a back seat.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au