YOUR HEALTH IS YOUR WEALTH: BOWEL OR COLORECTAL CANCER

Dr. Ash Mina

Bowel cancer is a malignant growth that most often is found inside the large bowel (67%) but can also occur in the rectum (33%). One in every thirteen person is having a bowel cancer.

15,253 Australians are told they have bowel cancer each year, including 2,186 people under the age of 55. Bowel cancer claims the lives of 4,346 Australians every year, including 455 people under the age of 55. It is the second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer. 55% of people diagnosed with cancer are males and 45% are female. Around 25% of all bowel cancer cases there is a family history or hereditary contribution. Bowel cancer cases are increasing with 20,000 cases are predicted for 2020. Most bowel cancers develop from small growths known as polyps. Polyps are like small spots on the bowel wall.

It is important to remember that not all polyps will grow into cancer, however regular screening will assist in the detection of any polyps.

SYMPTOMS

Like other cancers, bowel cancer can develop with no signs or symptoms. Colorectal cancer symptoms depend on the size and location of the cancer.

If you do experience any symptoms, these may include:

• Bleeding from the rectum
• Blood in your bowel motions ( faeces)
• Changes in stool consistency, narrow stools, or passing excessive amounts of gas
• Persistent pain in the abdomen
• Persistent change in normal bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation or going to the toilet more often
• Unexplained tiredness
• Weight loss

If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor to discuss.

WHO IS AT RISK OF GETTING BOWEL CANCER?

Both men and women can get bowel cancer, however, your chances of getting bowel cancer increase if you:

• Have other bowel diseases or experience bowel irregularities
• Are aged 50 years or older
• Are overweight
• Smoke
• Physically inactive
• Drink large amounts of alcohol
• Have a strong family history of bowel cancer

WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR RISK

Being healthy can prevent bowel cancer. It is recommended that you:

• Eat a healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables
• Maintain a healthy body weight
• Be active
• Quit smoking
• Screen for bowel cancer using a Faecal Occult Blood Test every two years from the age of 50

TREATMENT

90% of cases can be treated successfully if diagnosed early. Less than 40% are detected early. Treatable by a medical professional and requires a medical diagnosis. Lab tests or imaging always required. Early cases can begin as non-cancerous polyps. These often have no symptoms but can be detected by screening. For this reason, doctors recommend screenings for those at high risk or over the age of 50.

Colorectal cancer treatment depends on the size, location and how far the cancer has spread. Common treatments include surgery to remove the cancer, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.