Fighting Bowel Cancer in Australia

This June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, an initiative run annually by Bowel Cancer Australia to raise awareness of the second biggest cancer killer in Australia. According to Bowel Cancer Australia, the only charity in the country dedicated to raising awareness and funds for bowel cancer, it is a disease that claims the life of 80 people around the country every week, affecting countless Australian families each year.

While it may claim many lives every year, bowel cancer is also one of the most treatable forms of cancer, and can often be completely eliminated if detected and treated early enough. For this reason, the organisation works hard to raise awareness to encourage people to receive regular check ups.

About bowel cancer

Also known as colorectal cancer, bowel cancer can affect any part of the colon or rectum. Most bowel cancers begin as benign polyps that are non-threatening, which is why early detection is essential for ensuring that it does not end up developing further. In ​​advanced cases, the polyps may become cancerous tumours that spread to other organs beyond the bowel.

Symptoms of bowel cancer include changes to bowel movements and rectal bleeding, but unfortunately may be mistakenly attributed to haemorrhoids. As the cancerous tumour grows, it can narrow and even block the bowel. Diet and lifestyle are factors that have been shown to contribute to the development of bowel cancer, with the culprits including smoking, eating red and processed meats, drinking alcohol and being overweight or obese.

Detection is the first step

Bowel cancer is a cancer that does not discriminate. It affects both men and women, and 75% of people who develop the cancer have no prior family history of having the disease. It is a major cause of premature death across multiple age groups, and is especially prevalent in Australia compared to other countries around the world, with 1 in 13 Australians developing the disease in their lifetimes.

Fortunately, screening for bowel cancer is safe and simple — and can even be conducted at home with what’s called a Faecal Immunochemical Test. The test analyses samples of toilet water or stool, with the results sent to your GP. And under a recent initiative by the Australian Government, all eligible Australian citizen’s aged 50-74 will be sent a free bowel cancer screening kit to complete and send back to the laboratory for analysis, with no cost involved.​

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