Find Out About Bowel Cancer

August 1st 2018

What is Bowel Cancer?

Bowel Cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is cancer in any part of the colan or rectum. Most bowel cancers develop from tiny growths called polyps. Not all polyps become cancerous. Over time some polyps known as adenomas, can become cancerous (malignant). Cancer can narrow and block the bowel or cause bleeding. In more advanced cases, the cancer can spread beyond the bowel to other organs. However, if caught early, 50% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated.


How Common is Bowel Cancer?

  • Bowel Cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Australians.
  • Around 15,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year and over 1,000 are under the age of 50.
  • Bowel Cancer affects men and women almost equally.

Reducing the Risk

Age, family history, hereditary conditions and personal health can all influence your bowel cancer risk. These factors cannot be changed and are therefore referred to as non-modifiable.

Diet and lifestyle choices as well as screening and surveillance can influence your bowel cancer risk. These are things you can change and are therefore referred to as modifiable.


Tips to help reduce your bowel cancer risk.

v  Quit Smoking.

v  Avoid Processed meats and limit red meat consumption.

v  Avoid weight gain and increases in waist circumference.

v  If you choose to drink alcohol limit, the amount.

v  Eat naturally high-fibre foods.

v  Be Physically active as part of your everyday life.

v  Participate in bowel cancer screening.


Bowel Cancer Screening

Medical guidelines recommend that anyone aged over 50 is to do a test every 1 to 2 years using a faecal immunochemical test (FIT)

The Bowel Screen Australia Program uses the Colovantage Home test which can be purchased from participating pharmacies. This take-home test is simple to use and does not require any diet or medication changes. Campbell & Freebairn have the ColoVantage HOME Bowel Screening Test for $39.95.

The test involves placing toilet water on a special card and mailing it to a pathology laboratory. Following analysis, the results are sent to you and your GP.

+ A positive result means blood has been detected in the samples. It does not necessarily mean bowel cancer, but it does require further investigation. You should be referred for a colonoscopy within 30 days by your GP.

­- A negative result means blood has not been detected in the samples, however it does not mean you do not have or will never develop bowel cancer. The test should be repeated every 1 – 2 years


Symptoms of Bowel Cancer

It is vitally important to recognize possible bowel cancer symptoms and have them investigated if they persist.

Not everyone who experiences these symptoms has bowel cancer. Other medical conditions, some food or medicines can also cause these changes.


What to Look Out For….

  • A persistent change in bowel habit, such as looser, more diarrhoea-like bowel movements, constipation, or smaller more frequent bowel movements.
  • A change in appearance of bowel movements.
  • Blood in the bowel movement or rectal bleeding.
  • Unexplained anaemia causing tiredness or weight loss.
  • Abdominal pain, especially if severe.


If you are experiencing and of the above symptoms for more than two weeks, see your GP immediately.

If symptoms suggest cancer, you should be referred for a colonoscopy within 30 days by your GP.

However old you are, you should never be told by your GP that you are too young to have bowel cancer.