She warns others not to overlook unusual symptoms
A Florida nurse who couldn’t stop burping has revealed her symptom was caused by undiagnosed, late-stage cancer.
In 2021, Bailey McBreen, 24, started burping up to 10 times a day – something which was ‘not normal’ for her.
She put the symptom off for months, but she got checked when it progressed to acid reflux and ‘excruciating’ stomach cramps.
Ms McBreen, who exercised multiple times a week, was eventually diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer – which came as a ‘huge shock’ to her and her family.
Though burping as a sign of cancer may seem bizarre, colon cancer can cause obstructions in the digestive tract, leading to excess gas.
‘The first sign something was wrong – although I didn’t know it at the time – was when I began excessively burping,’ Ms McBreen told NeedToKnow.
‘I would burp 5-10 times a day. This was not normal for me.’
Though she has had emergency surgery, Ms McBreen will receive chemotherapy until the end of August. She’s now encouraging others to listen to their bodies if something feels off.
This type of cancer is exceptionally rare in people as young as Ms McBreen, affecting just two per 100,000 people age 20 to 24 between 2015 and 2019.
The burping started last year, which Ms McBreen didn’t initially think much of. However, last February, she also started suffering from acid reflux, which doctors attributed to anxiety.
It wasn’t until the following January that Ms McBreen felt something was truly off – she was suffering from ‘excruciating’ pain and finding she was unable to go to the bathroom. She also had no appetite.
Drawing on her experience as a nurse, Ms McBreen felt confident there was some sort of ‘obstruction’ going on inside her body – but she had ‘no idea’ it was actually a tumor until a CT scan found it growing in her colon.
‘Never in a million years did I think that any vague symptom I had was actually stage three colon cancer,’ Ms McBreen told NeedToKnow.co.uk.
‘It truly was an out of body experience. I felt like I was sitting in the corner of the room watching myself be diagnosed. Time felt like it slowed down and my heart rate sped up. I was in a complete state of shock.
I remember the first thing I could say was “I am not ready to die.” All I could do in that moment was cry and mourn the life that I used to have and mentally prepare for what is to come.’
Ms McBreen had emergency surgery in January. She now focuses on spreading awareness and fighting the disease alongside her support system. ‘My diagnosis has impacted my life in every possible way you could imagine. I don’t know if I will ever fully process the fact that I am diagnosed with such an aggressive and late-stage cancer. But I refuse to let it define me. I am doing everything I can humanly do to fight this disease.’
After her diagnosis in late January she found out about the strange link with belching. The tumor was located higher in the transverse colon, located just beneath the other organs in the abdominal cavity. It’s the longest and most mobile part of the colon.
This then caused a bowel obstruction.
Ms McBreen thinks tumor caused the onset of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic digestive disease that happens when the esophageal sphincter can’t close properly. When that sphincter can’t close, stomach acid travels up to the esophagus, causing heartburn, burping, and trouble swallowing.
‘GERD was a symptom in my case because my tumor was slowly causing a complete bowel obstruction,’ Ms McBreen said. ‘As a result, my food was not completely digesting and was getting ‘trapped’ above my tumor, causing my reflux and burping.’
‘Excessive burping isn’t your textbook sign of colon cancer but my oncologist told me that it was likely the start of my symptoms.’
‘Anything that is new to you, even if it’s otherwise considered a normal thing, needs to be addressed. I didn’t think anything of my burping because it was a ‘normal’ thing. It’s important to listen to your body,’ Ms McBreen said
Prior to cancer, she led a ‘very healthy’ lifestyle – which is part of the reason her diagnosis came as such a huge shock.
‘The 10 months leading up to my diagnosis, I was actually the healthiest I had ever been,’ Ms McBreen said.
She was working out five to six times a week for at least 14 months.
Ms McBreen had emergency surgery in January to remove the tumor before starting chemotherapy the following month. She will continue to receive that treatment until the end of August.
Ms McBreen is just one of many young people to be diagnosed with colon cancer, the third most common form of the disease diagnosed in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.
A 2023 report from the American Cancer Society states that the rate of colorectal cancer in Americans younger than age 55 increased from 11 percent of all cases in 1995 to 20 percent in 2019.
In the same study, researchers estimated that this year, 153,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. This includes about 52,000 deaths.
Of those cases, 13 percent would be in people under age 50, a nine percent increase in cases within that age range since 2020.
Ms McBreen now wants to share her story to raise awareness for other people with unusual ‘warning sign’ symptoms.
‘My diagnosis has impacted my life in every possible way you could imagine. I don’t know if I will ever fully process the fact that I am diagnosed with such an aggressive and late-stage cancer. But I refuse to let it define me. I am doing everything I can humanly do to fight this disease.’
Written by Emily Joshu for The Daily Mail, May 1, 2023