Bowel Cancer Facts

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month, an initiative of this Cancer Australia, aimed at raising awareness and funding for research of one of the country’s deadliest diseases.

There are 15,000 new cases of this cancer reported in Australia each year, and over 5,000 deaths.

Dr Raghu Gill, a gastroenterologist, hepatologist and advanced endoscopist at Norwest Private Hospital, talks about the risks, symptoms and treatments for this invasive cancer.

“Our country has one of the highest rates of this cancer in the world, with one in 12 Australians developing cancer before the age of 85,” says Dr Gill.

“It accounts for 13% of all invasive cancers diagnosed in Australia, second only to prostate cancer,” he says.

“But there is good news. “90% of these cancers can be successfully treated if detected early.”

“Colorectal cancer, or bowel cancer, develops when cells in the bowel lining grow too quickly, forming a clump known as a polyp or an adenoma,” explains Dr Gill.

“Polyps are usually benign, but can grow for several years before undergoing additional changes and becoming cancerous and spreading to other parts of the body.”

“There are a few factors that can increase a person’s risk of bowel cancer including age, weight and poor diet. Family history is also an important consideration, with the risk doubling for those who have a parent or sibling with bowel cancer, and quadrupling for those with two close relatives with the disease.

“Early detection is the key to fighting bowel cancer,” says Dr Gill. He encourages all those who are eligible between 50-74 years of age to participate in the National Bowel Screening program.

The test kit is sent in the mail so there’s no need to go anywhere to be tested and the kit is easy to use.

The Australian Government introduced the National Bowel Cancer Screening Progam to reduce the number of deaths from bowel cancer in Australia.

Eligible people, aged 50 to 74, receive a taxpayer-funded faecal immunochemical test (FIT) in the mail and are asked to take two separate poo samples before sending the completed test back to the laboratory for analysis. It is sent every two years around the time of your birthday. For further information call the centre on 1800 627 701.

If you are ineligible to participate in the Program, talk to your GP or pharmacist about how to purchase a BowelScreen Australia ColoVantage test. Alternatively, purchase a screening test from Bowel Cancer Australia online at or by calling 1800 555 494.

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