Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is an annual initiative of Bowel Cancer Australia running throughout the month of June (1-30 June), to raise public awareness of a disease that claims the lives of 80 Australians every week.
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is cancer in any part of the colon or rectum. Most bowel cancers develop from tiny growths called polyps. Over time some polyps, known as adenomas, can become cancerous (malignant) and develop into tumours. Tumours can narrow and block the bowel or cause bleeding. In more advanced cases, the cancer can spread beyond the bowel to other organs. However, if caught early, 90% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated.
How common is bowel cancer?
· Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer.
· Around 15,000 people are diagnosed each year. Over 1,000 are under the age of 50.
· Bowel cancer affects men and women almost equally.
Reducing the risk
Age, family history, hereditary conditions and personal health can all influence your bowel cancer risk. These factors cannot be changed and are therefore referred to as non-modifiable.
Diet and lifestyle choices as well as screening and surveillance can influence your bowel cancer risk. These are things you can change and are therefore referred to as modifiable.
Tips to help reduce your bowel cancer risk· Quit smoking.
· Avoid processed meats and limit red meat consumption.
· Avoid weight gain and increases in waist circumference.
· If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount.
· Eat naturally high-fibre foods.
· Be physically active as part of your everyday life.
· Participate in bowel cancer screening.
- Bowel cancer screening
Medical guideline recommend people at average risk of bowel cancer screen using a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) every 1 to 2 years from age 50.
· The Australian Government is phasing in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program by 2020. Eligible Australians will receive a tax-payer funded screening test in the mail and are encouraged to complete and return it.
· The BowelScreen Australia® Program uses the ColoVantage® Home tets which can be purchased from participating pharmacies.
The test involves collecting small samples of stool or toilet water and mailing them to a pthaology laboratory. Folowing analysis, the results are sent to you and your GP.
· A positive result means blood has been detected in the samples. It does not necessarily indicate bowel cancer but it does require further investigation. You should be referred for a colonoscopy within 30 days by your GP.
· A negative result means blood has not been detected in the samples, however it does not mean you do not have or will never develop bowel cancer. The test should be repeated every 1 to 2 years.
Symptoms of bowel cancer
It is vitally important to recognise possible bowel cancer symptoms and have them investigated if they persist.
Not everyone who experiences these symptoms has bowel cancer. Other medical conditions and some food or medicines can also cause these changes.
What to look out for…
· A persistent change in bowel habit, such as looser, more diarrhoea-like bowel movements, constipation, or smaller more frequent bowel movements.
· A change in appearance of bowel movements.
· Blood in the bowel movement or rectal bleeding.
· Unexplained tiredness, weakness or weight loss.
· Abdominal pain, especially if severe.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms for more than two weeks, see your GP immediately.
If symptoms suggest cancer, you should be referred for a colonoscopy within 30 days by our GP.
However old you are, you should never be told by your GP that you are too young to have bowel cancer.
Taken from Bowel Cancer Australia, bowelcanceraustralia.org