June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

Sandy with her dad Kevin

Sandy with her dad Kevin

Hi, Sandy Brangan here, bowel cancer awareness is very close to my heart. My dear dad, Kevin, fought it for several years before it spread to his lungs and he eventually succumbed in 2013 at the age of 85.

Bowel cancer claims the lives of 103 Australians every week (5,354 people a year) – but it’s one of the most treatable types of cancer when detected early.

While the risk of bowel cancer increases significantly with age, the disease doesn’t discriminate, affecting people of all ages.

Who gets bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer affects men and women, young and old.

Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world; 1 in 15 Australians will develop the disease in their lifetime.

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second deadliest cancer.

Around 30% of people who develop bowel cancer have either a hereditary contribution, family history, or a combination of both. The other 70% of people have no family history of the disease and no hereditary contribution.

The risk of developing bowel cancer rises sharply and progressively from age 50, but the number of Australians under age 50 diagnosed with bowel cancer has been increasing steadily. That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms of bowel cancer and have them investigated if they persist for more than two weeks.

Almost 99% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully when detected early.

Any of the below symptoms could be indicative of colon or rectal cancer and should be investigated by your GP if they persist for more than two weeks.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

  • Blood in your poo or rectal bleeding
  • 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 (e.g. narrower poos or mucus in poo)
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Pain or a lump in the anus or rectum
  • Unexplained anaemia causing tiredness, weakness, or weight loss

If you’re about to turn 50, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Additionally, you are about to, or will have already received your free bowel screening test in the mail from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

A positive result means blood in poo has been detected. It does not necessarily mean bowel cancer is present but does require further investigation by a GP and a referral for colonoscopy within 30 days.

A negative result means blood in poo has not been detected in the samples; however, it does not guarantee no cancer is present or that the person will never develop bowel cancer.

The at-home test is able to detect non-visible blood that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Blood in poo is one possible symptom of bowel cancer. If the result of the test is positive, the person is contacted to arrange a colonoscopy.

For people ineligible to participate in the government program, talk to your GP or pharmacist today about BowelScreen Australia, or order a screening test online or by calling Bowel Cancer Australia’s Helpline on 1800 555 494.

How can I reduce my bowel cancer risk?

Diet & lifestyle:

Healthy diet and lifestyle choices, as well as screening and surveillance, can help to reduce your bowel cancer risk.

Evidence reveals quitting smoking, abstaining from or limiting alcohol consumption, and eating foods containing dietary fibre are all beneficial.

Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular physical activity have also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, but not rectal cancer.

Additionally, people who are more physically active before a bowel cancer diagnosis are less likely to die from the disease than those who are less active.

For people aged 50-70 years without symptoms or a family history of bowel cancer, a GP may also recommend taking a low dose of aspirin* for at least 2.5 years.

*Whether or not a person should take aspirin depends on their general health, and whether they have another condition that could be made worse by aspirin (e.g. allergy to aspirin, stomach ulcers, bleeding or kidney problems).

*Always consult with your GP.

Bowel care support – no one should face bowel cancer alone

Bowel Cancer Australia provides practical and emotional support for the growing number of Australians affected by the disease.

The 100% community-funded charity offers information, resources, and support to anyone with issues related to bowel cancer.

To speak with a Bowel Care Nurse please call 1800 555 494 between 10am – 4pm, Monday to Friday, or email anytime (https://www.bowelcanceraustralia.org/nurse#emailnurse)

Source: bowelcanceraustralia.org

Article by: Sandy Brangan, Brangan Medical Business Consultants

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