How Common is Bowel Cancer in Australia?
In light of it being Bowel Cancer awareness month (otherwise known as colorectal cancer), it seemed fitting to shed some light on the topic given that it is the second deadliest cancer in Australia for males and females collectively. 1 in 13 Australians will develop the disease in their lifetime, accounting for 103 lives a week.
What Are The Risk Factors For Bowel Cancer?
Like most cancers, the risk of developing bowel cancer from the age of 50 onwards increases steeply. However, figures are proving that it is on the rise among the younger demographic due to specific lifestyle factors including obesity and alcohol. Despite these grim figures, it is reassuring to know that it is one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer if it is detected early.
Specific factors that can increase your risk of bowel cancer should also be taken into account. For example, smoking, eating processed meats, alcohol and being overweight are just some of the lifestyle related factors that can be modified to decrease your risk. Age, family history, hereditary conditions and personal health history are factors that cannot be modified but should also be considered.
Check your Symptoms for Bowel Cancer
99% of cases can be successfully treated when caught early. That is why it is important to familiarise yourself with common symptoms. The most common symptom is blood in your stool or rectal bleeding.
Other symptoms include:
- A recent, persistent change in bowel habit (e.g. diarrhoea, constipation or the feeling or incomplete emptying)
- A change in the shape or appearance of your poo
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Pain or a lump in the anus or rectum
- Unexplained anaemia causing tiredness, weakness or weight loss
However, in saying all of this, it is possible to have no symptoms which is why screening every two years is a crucial preventative measure if you are aged over 50. Currently the Australian Government has implemented a National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. This is targeted at people of the ages 50-74 years old where a free at-home testing kit is sent within six months of your 50th birthday. It is highly recommended that a screening test is conducted every two years. It costs you nothing and it could save your life! As the screening programme does not target people below the age of 50, all age groups should be familiar with the symptoms and have them investigated if they persist for more than two weeks.
With a combination of educating yourself, maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well as surveillance and screening you can reduce the likelihood of developing the disease.
Want More Information on Bowel Cancer Prevention?
To seek further information or have further questions don’t hesitate to see one of our Australian registered doctors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our doctors also provide referrals for more specialised medical issues, so you don’t have to leave your home to find the right treatment for you.