During Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, Cancer Australia is raising public awareness of bowel cancer, the second most common cancer in both men and women in New Zealand and Australia.
Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, with approximately 17,000 people expected to be diagnosed this year.
“Evidence shows that the disease can be treated successfully if detected in its early stages, however fewer than 40 per cent of bowel cancers are detected early,” Cancer Australia CEO, Professor Helen Zorbas said.
To help reduce the impact of the disease, here are three key actions that individuals can do to reduce the impact of bowel cancer on our community.
Participate in screening
Participation in the bowel cancer screening is vital to reducing deaths from this cancer.
“Bowel cancer is potentially one of the most preventable cancers through the early detection of abnormalities from screening.” Professor Zorbas said.
Make positive lifestyle changes
“Many people are not aware that there are ways they can reduce their risk of bowel cancer. Maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake and not smoking, all reduce risk of developing bowel cancer.” Professor Zorbas said.
Know the symptoms
“It’s important to know and act on the symptoms of bowel cancer to detect it early.” Professor Zorbas said.
Symptoms of bowel cancer include blood in bowel motions, changes in bowel habit, severe constipation, diarrhea or needing to go to the toilet more than usual, unexplained tiredness, weight loss for no known reason, and abdominal pain or bloating.
While these symptoms may be due to other conditions, it’s important to see a doctor to be sure.
Here are Bowel Cancer Australia’s top tips on our #2 cancer
· Screening saves lives – when you’re lining up for the 2 yearly mammogram or pap smear, commit to a bowel cancer screening test too, especially from age 50.
· We are what we eat – dietary fibre is protective against bowel cancer whereas high levels of red meat is a cause. Limit red meat to 500 g/week; avoid processed meats.
· Tobacco & alcohol – don’t smoke and stick to guidelines for moderate alcohol consumption to reduce your risk. One standard drink per day for women; two alcohol free days per week.
· Family matters – bowel cancer risk doubles if a parent, sibling or child has been affected. Talk to your doctor for individual advice on risk and screening.
· Young & old – while bowel cancer rates increase with age, 1,000 people under the age of 50 are also diagnosed each year. No-one is too young to have bowel cancer.
· Take action on symptoms – bleeding, a persistent change in bowel habit, unexplained weight loss or severe abdominal pain should be investigated urgently.
Visit bowelcanceraustralia.org for more information.