June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, and as the second-most deadly cancer it is well-worth taking some time to discuss what bowel cancer is, what the symptoms and risk factors are, and how may be treated.
We’re sharing information from Bowel Cancer Australia’s website in this post – if you are able, please take the time to show them some support during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
What are the stats around bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer is the second deadliest cancer in Australia claiming the lives of over 5,000 Australians each year. Over 15,000 people are diagnosed each year, with most being over the age of 50. Bowel cancer comprises of two different types of cancer – colon cancer and rectal cancer. The sad fact about bowel cancer being so deadly is that 99% of bowel cancers can be treated if detected early enough. Unfortunately however a lot of cases aren’t detected in time (less than 50% in fact). Lastly, bowel cancer is on the rise – Bowel Cancer Australia predicts that over 20,000 cases will be diagnosed in 2020.
What are the risk factors?
There are a few risk factors for bowel cancer – some you have a degree of influence over and others you don’t. The modifiable risk factors for bowel cancer include:
- Eating too much red meat
- Eating processed meat
- Drinking alcohol
- Being overweight or obese
Many of these can be addressed or minimised through diet or lifestyle changes. However there are also some risk factors for bowel cancer that you can’t help. These include:
- Age (particularly those over 50)
- Family history/hereditary conditions
- Your personal health history (such as other diseases or illnesses that you may suffer from).
What are the symptoms?
So many cases of bowel cancer go undetected because quite often there are no symptoms in the early stages. It is one of the reasons that screening is so important, and in Australia is recommended every two years from the age of 50.
Interestingly, cancers causing on either the left or right side of the colon can cause different symptoms as well. For the left side, often sufferers report constipation or diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, whereas on the right side, sufferers may report more vague symptoms of aches. Bowel Cancer Australia suggests that you should see a GP if you experience these symptoms:
- Blood in your faeces, or rectal bleeding
- A recent, persistent change in bowel habit
- A change in appearance of your faeces
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Pain or lump in the anus or rectum
- Unexplained anaemia causing tiredness, weakness or weight loss
If you believe you have suffered from any of the above, make an appointment and we’ll talk you through the next steps.
How may bowel cancer be treated?
It goes without saying that the treatment plan assigned to you will be unique to your situation. Some factors include where the cancer is located, how big the tumour is, the type of cancer cells and your health in general. Treatment depends on a number of factors, including where the cancer is located (such as in the colon or the rectum). Surgery may be undertaken to remove the cancer, or chemotherapy and radiotherapy could help to slow the progression or reduce the size of the tumour.
Remember that the prognosis improves the earlier the cancer is diagnosed, so it is important not to ignore any symptoms that you are experiencing.
What should you do if you are concerned?
The first step is to book an appointment with a GP. They will be able to discuss the diagnostic tools and tests available to you and arrange any necessary referrals for this testing. You may also like to take the time to read through the comprehensive information on the Bowel Cancer Australia website, to further inform you about bowel cancer symptoms and treatment options.
Take the time this month during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month to learn more about bowel cancer, and if you can, please look at ways to get involved in raising awareness for this prevalent disease.
This website does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately dial Triple 0 (000).