A Surrey woman has taken on the challenge of raising awareness and funds to help fight a rare form of cancer after she was diagnosed with the disease in October last year.

Tuesday (November 10) marks World Neuroendocrine Cancer Day and Jessica Howell, 31, is at the forefront of a UK campaign to help throw light on the uncommon form of stomach cancer that is frequently hard to spot and diagnose.

“Where I had lost weight I could feel something in my stomach. It hurt to exercise and I was constipated,” Jessica described.

Having previously been told that her tummy troubles were nothing to be too worried about by her regular GP, she decided to go back and saw a visiting doctor who also felt something on her stomach and sent her for an ultrasound scan that was later followed up by a CT scan.

“At this point I still thought everything was fine...the next day I was called in with my now-husband and they said ‘we think you’ve got cancer because we can see a large mass in your abdomen and something going on in your lungs and liver, but we’re going to need to do more tests,” Jessica said.

“It was quite hard because I was told in the nicest possible way that I had cancer but noone could actually tell me what it was,” she added.

It turns out that such a situation is quite common with Neuroendocrine cancers as they are difficult to diagnose.

Neuroendocrine Cancer UK say one of the main reasons for that is because symptoms are often non-specific among cases. However, 30 per cent of patients experienced diarrhoea, tiredness, bloating, pain and skin ‘flushing’.

Surrey Comet: Jessica is raising awareness about Neuroendocrine cancer after her diagnosis in October last year. Jessica is raising awareness about Neuroendocrine cancer after her diagnosis in October last year.

Meanwhile, 54 per cent of patients just like Jessica were told by their doctors to come back if such symptoms persisted, or that they were related to a less-serious condition.

Jessica’s diagnosis finally turned out to be a paraganglioma tumour, linked to the high levels of adrenaline in her system that she assumed was just herself being energetic.

She was given just a year to live.

After one apparently inconspicuous hospital visit, however, a team of doctors appeared and told her they could operate on the tumour and, while it would not conquer the cancer completely, could massively improve her prospects. the cancer stabilize and her outlook rapidly improve.

Surrey Comet: Neuroendocrine cancer information sheet. Neuroendocrine cancer information sheet.

Seven hours of surgery and a lot of follow-up treatment has seen Jessica’s cancer stabilize and her outlook improve massively. Her prognosis is now hopefully over 10 years.

During her journey since the diagnosis Jessica has helped share information and experiences with others with the disease through groups like the Neuroendocrine Cancer UK Support facebook group. She has also embarked on an intrepid fundraising initiative and raised a remarkable £14,000 for Neuroendocrine Cancer UK thanks to a10-mile charity run she completed after her diagnosis. The money is enough to fund the charity’s entire counselling service for a year.

“I’m really proud of what I’ve done and to help the charity that have been so helpful to me. I just wanted to raise awareness because when I got told I hadn’t even heard of the disease,” Jessica said. For more information about disease and how to spot it, click here

To donate to Jessica's fundraiser, click here