Bowel cancer is known as a silent killer. During the early stages of bowel cancer, people have no symptoms. This is why knowing the signs and screening for this early is so so important! Even more for people with a family history.
Unfortunately, bowel cancer targets everyone - men and women, young and old. “You have bowel cancer” is not something that many young people expect to hear, yet each year over 1600 young Australians do. 1 in 10 Australians diagnosed with bowel cancer are under the age of 50. In fact, Australia has one of the highest prevalences ofbowel cancer in the world - 1 in 15 Australians will develop the disease.
So now that we’ve established that bowel cancer is common - what is it and why is it important?
Most bowel cancers start as non-threatening lesions called polyps - on the wall or lining of the bowel. These polyps can range from a couple of millimeters to several centimeters. They are usually harmless; however if left undetected, they can develop into cancerous tumors and eventually spread to other organs beyond the bowel.
Almost 99% of bowel cancer cases are treated successfully, with careful monitoring and early detection.
Day to Day Exercises
At least 30 minutes of physical activity such as walking, five times a week. More active people have a lower risk of bowel cancer. Here are some walking trails around Melbourne: https://www.victoriawalks.org.au/Melbourne/
Bowel cancer screening: This is safe, convenient and easy - you can do this at home! It involves collecting a bit of your poo in a container and mailing them to the lab for analysis. It looks for traces of blood in your poo that can’t be seen with the naked eye. The results are sent to your GP, who will discuss them with you.
How often? Every 2 years from your 50th birthday! If you want to do it earlier, you can order a screening test online or by calling 1800 727 336 (SCREEN).
Bowel cancer surveillance: People from families with bowel cancer need extra, more meticulous testing as they are at greater risk for bowel cancer. The age at which a person should start regular bowel checkups depends on your risk category - talk to your GP about it.
What’s so scary about bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer is the sneakiest snake out there! During the early stages of bowel cancer, people have no symptoms. This is why screening for this early is so so important!
As cancer grows and develops, the symptoms become slightly more obvious. It can grow so large that it blocks the passage of the bowel and change the size, shape and colour of our poo; you may even notice blood!
These are the RED FLAG symptoms that could indicate bowel cancer.
Blood in your poo
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 anemia causing tiredness, weakness or weight loss