Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world – around 1 in 23 australians will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime. But it is also one of the most preventable cancers. Both men and women are at risk of developing bowel cancer.
- The risk is greater if you:
- are aged 50 years and over – your risk increases with age;
- have had an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis;
- have previously had special types of polyps, called adenomas, in the bowel; or
- have a significant family history of bowel cancer or polyps.
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, develops from the inner lining of the bowel and is usually preceded by growths called polyps which may become invasive cancer if undetected. Depending on where the cancer begins, bowel cancer may be called colon or rectal cancer.
Symptoms and signs of bowel cancer
- change in bowel habit including diarrhea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying
- a change in the appearance or consistency of bowel movements such as thin bowel stools
- blood in the stools
- abdominal pain, bloating or cramping
- anal or rectal pain
- a lump in the anus or rectum
- weight loss
- unexplained fatigue
- tiredness and/or anaemia (pale complexion, weakness and breathlessness)
When should I see my GP?
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is a good idea to book a consultation with your doctor. A number of tests are used to diagnose bowel cancer. Initially, your doctor at Parkhill Medical Center will give you a physical examination to feel if you have any abdominal swelling. You may have a blood test to see if there are any signs that you are losing blood in your stools. It can also check your red blood cell count as low red blood cells are common in people with bowel cancer.
The national Bowel Cancer at home kit
The national Bowel Cancer screening program invites people starting at age 50 and continuing to age 74 (without symptoms) to screen for bowel cancr using a free, easy to use test at home. Your GP at parkhill medical Center will also be able to help you with any questions you may have about using the kit.
What else can I do to reduce my risk of Bowel cancer?
The risk of bowel cancer can be reduced by a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, limiting consumption of red meat, avoiding processed meats, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, being physically active, and maintaining a healthy body weight. Furthermore, it is important to see your GP if you are experiencing any symptoms associated with Bowel Cancer.