Australia currently has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. In fact, it is the third most common type of newly diagnosed cancer in Australia and is the second biggest cancer killer. Statistics show that the risk is slightly higher for males, with 55% of those diagnosed being men. The risk of developing bowel cancer rises sharply and progressively increases from the age of fifty years onward; therefore a screening every one to two years could potentially save your life (Bowel Cancer Australia, 2017).
Symptoms Of Bowel Cancer
It is important to recognise that 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully as long as they are detected early on; however fewer than 40% of cases are detected early.
Unfortunately, in the early stages, some patients do not present with any symptoms at all. However, if you note any of the following symptoms for more than one month it is recommended that you see your GP and schedule a bowel cancer screening appointment;
- Changes in your bowel movements – bowel movements may become more or less frequent, and diarrhoea or constipation may occur
- Changes in the appearance of your bowel movements, such as narrower stools or mucus in the stools
- Blood within the stools; it may also be present on toilet paper
- Pain in the rectum or anus
- Pain or swelling in the abdomen
- The feeling of a lump in the rectum or anus
- Feelings of fullness and bloating within the bowel or rectum
- Feeling as though the bowel hasn’t completely emptied after a bowel movement
- An unexplained weight loss
- Feelings of weakness or fatigue
- Anaemia, which is also responsible for causing feelings of tiredness and weakness
Keep in mind, however, that not everyone who suffers from these symptoms will have bowel cancer. There are many other conditions such as haemorrhoids, diverticulitis, tears within the anal canal, and even some foods and medication which can cause similar symptoms. Small numbers of cases present with similar symptoms and can indicate anal cancer, although this condition is much rarer.
Short-term changes in bowel function do not always indicate serious problems and can be common. Nevertheless, if any of the above symptoms persist for more than four weeks, you should discuss them in detail with your doctor to find the underlying cause.
Reducing Your Risk Of Developing Bowel Cancer
You are at an increased risk of bowel cancer if there is a family history of the condition. A family history of other cancers such as endometrial cancers can also increase the risk of developing bowel cancer.
Many medical researchers believe that by eating a healthy diet, you can prevent up to one-third of cancers. Although following any particular diet is unlikely to prevent bowel cancer altogether, it can reduce your risk in general as well as your overall health. Try reducing your risk of developing bowel cancer by;
- Attending regular bowel cancer screenings
- Follow a well-balanced, healthy diet
- Eat limited amounts of processed meats
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Exercise on a regular basis
- Quit smoking and avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
For more information about bowel cancer, you can speak to your healthcare provider or GP to learn more.
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Medical information published on this website is of a general nature only and not intended to be a substitute for informed healthcare professional advice or clinical care. If you have specific healthcare concerns or issues you should consult with a qualified health care professional such as your own GP.