What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is a malignant growth that most often is found inside the large bowel but can also occur in the rectum. Most bowel cancers develop from small growths known as polyps. Polyps are like small spots on the bowel wall.
It is important to remember that not all polyps will grow into cancer, however regular screening will assist in the detection of any polyps.
Like other cancers, bowel cancer can develop with no signs or symptoms.
If you do experience any symptoms, these may include:
- bleeding from the rectum
- blood in your bowel motions (faeces)
- persistent pain in the abdomen
- persistent change in normal bowel habits such as diarrhoea, constipation or going to the toilet more often
- unexplained tiredness
- weight loss
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor to discuss.
Who’s at risk of getting bowel cancer?
Both men and women can get bowel cancer, however, your chances of getting bowel cancer increase if you:
- have other bowel diseases or experience bowel irregularities
- are aged 50 years or older
- are overweight
- physically inactive
- drink large amounts of alcohol
- have a strong family history of bowel cancer
Ways to reduce your risk
Being healthy can prevent bowel cancer. It is recommended that you:
- eat a healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables
- maintain a healthy body weight
- be active
- quit smoking
- Screen for bowel cancer using a Faecal Occult Blood Test every two years from the age of 50
Bowel cancer facts
- Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world
- About 1 in every 12 people in Australia get bowel cancer by the age of 85
- Men are at greater risk than women in developing bowel cancer
- In Australia the risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer by the age of 85 is 1 in 10 for men and 1 in 15 for women
- The risk of bowel cancer rises sharply from age 50 years
- It is the second most common cause of cancer related death in Australia
- Around 80 Australians die each week from bowel cancer
- In 2009, 444 South Australians died of bowel cancer and 1,230 new cases were diagnosed in South Australia.