June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month, so here are the facts.
What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a cancer of the lining of the colon or rectum. It is the number two cancer-killer in Australia with one person dying every two hours – more than from breast or prostate cancer.
Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. Yet it is also one of the most preventable cancers. The good news is that more than 90% of people survive bowel cancer if it is detected and treated early.
Bowel cancer can occur without any obvious warning signs in the early stages. Not everyone will have symptoms, and the symptoms can vary.
Some of the most common signs are:
- Persistent change in bowel habits
- Blood in the stool (bowel motion)
- Abdominal bloating or cramping abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
Early detection is key
Bowel Cancer Australia recommends participating in screening appropriate to your personal level of risk. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) invites eligible people starting at age 50 and continuing to age 74 (without symptoms) to screen for bowel cancer every 2 years using a free, simple test at home. Find out if you are eligible for a free screening kit.
Screening before symptoms become present is important, because bowel cancer can develop without any early warning signs. Make a commitment to take the test during Bowel Cancer Awareness month.
If you do experience any of these symptoms, regardless of your age, it is important to consult your GP so the cause can be found.