JANE Barrow remembers the exact date she was diagnosed with bowel cancer: September 20 2018.

By that time the mother-of-one, from Portobello in Edinburgh, had been waiting nearly seven months for a colonoscopy, but had "no thought at all" that she might have cancer.

Read more: Mystery surge in bowel cancer incidence among under-50s - inclusing children and teenagers

She admits she even had second thoughts about going as she felt her symptoms had eased after being prescribed anti-spasmodic drugs by her GP.

"I kept thinking 'maybe I should phone them' but I sort of forgot about it," she says. "I was still having symptoms but I thought they were getting better. You tolerate things."

Ms Barrow, 42, is one of the growing number of under-50s in Scotland who are being diagnosed with the disease, and doctors still do not know why.

She had put up with an “unsettled gut”, discomfort and occasional pain for two or three years, tracing symptoms back to the time she gave birth to her daughter, Amelie, now eight.

She said: “I’d had a caesarean about five years before and I’d had a bit of an issue with my gut. My gut basically went in the huff after having someone rummaging about for Amelie. Things settled down about a year and a half after the birth, in around 2012.

“Then about 2015 to 2016 I started to get what I thought was IBS [irritable bowel syndrome]. I thought maybe it’s just the fact that I’m getting older.

“I was cutting out foods but I was kind of shooting in the dark, I didn’t really know what I was doing.”

Read more: Mystery surge in bowel cancer incidence among under-50s - inclusing children and teenagers

At the beginning of 2018, she decided to approach her GP who prescribed anti-spasmodic medication and took two stool samples, both of which were relatively inconclusive.

In March 2018, her GP referred her for a colonoscopy as a precaution. Her maternal grandfather died from bowel cancer aged 78, but there were no other 'red flag' risk factors.

Long waits for colonoscopy have become an issue in Scotland due to shortages of endoscopists and rising referral rates. Recent figures revealed that in NHS Lothian, more than half of patients had waited more than six weeks for the test.

Read more: Mystery surge in bowel cancer incidence among under-50s - inclusing children and teenagers

By the time Ms Barrow, who manages the vintage clothes shop, William Armstrong & Sons, in Edinburgh, underwent the procedure the specialist nurse diagnosed cancer immediately.

"The specialist nurse who did it was great," she says. "My gut was really healthy until he got to the tumour. I didn't know what it was, but he just said 'okay, that's a polyp'. He didn't say the word cancer.

"He was so calm and I'm so thankful to him for that.

"He just sent me to recovery and said he'd come and have a wee chat with me in an hour.

"He was very direct, but lovely too. He just said 'look I'm really sorry, but I've done about 1500 of these - I know what it is.

"After that, everything happened so quickly."

Biopsies revealed that the cancer had spread to the peritoneal membrane, the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen.

On November 14, she underwent major surgery at the Western General in Edinburgh to remove the tumour, and part of her bowel. Doctors detected traces of cancer in some blood vessels surrounding the tissue but thankfully none in her lymph nodes.

A CT scan showed no sign of the cancer having spread to her liver or lungs, but in January she began chemotherapy as a precaution.

Ms Barrow has nothing but praise for the "amazing" care she has had from everyone involved in her diagnosis and treatment, but says her own experience has highlighted the potential shortcomings of a screening process geared to over-50s at time when prevalence is rising in younger Scots.

She said: "I'm not your typical bowel cancer candidate. I'm under 50, and I didn't have blood in my stools, so I can see why I wouldn't be getting fast-tracked.

"But when I've been talking to people who work in the colorectal world they said they were getting more people presenting at a younger age.

"I think if that's the case they should lower the age for screening."