What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer is a disease of the large bowel (colon) that usually develops from small growths inside the colon, know as polyps. Not all polyps are cancerous, however if detected early, they can be removed to significantly reduce the chance of bowel cancer developing.
The prevalence and severity of bowel cancer is due to the fact that usually there are no symptoms during the early stages of the disease when polyps are small. With no obvious symptoms, the cancer is given the chance to develop and spread to other vital organs including the liver, kidneys and lungs completely undetected.
More Advanced symptoms of the disease include:
- Blood mixed with mucus, either combined or separate from the bowel motion
- Changes in normal bowel habits
- Unexplained loss of weight
- Persistent cramping or abdominal pain
- Feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowel
- General weakness, tiredness and breathlessness
Who is at risk?
People most at risk of bowel cancer have:
- A family history of bowel cancer or polyps
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Chrohn’s disease)
However the majority of people with bowel cancer have no family or personal history of the disease.
You could also be at risk of bowel cancer if you:
- Are aged over 40 years old
- Have a poor diet
- Currently or previously smoke
- Exceed the recommended alcohol intake
Annual testing for bowel cancer is recommended for all men and women over the age of 40 years to ensure no cancerous polyps are left undetected.
What is the chance I have bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in the world after breast cancer.
It is the second highest cause of cancer deaths in Australia after lung cancer.
It is the most common internal cancer affecting male and female Australians.
It affects one in 18 males and one in 26 females in Australia.
Without annual testing, one in 12 adults will be affected by age 85.