Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: When Prevention Saves Lives

The more you know, the healthier and happier you’ll be.

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Bowel Cancer Awareness (source: Bowel Cancer Australia)

Every year, 15,000 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 4,000 of them die of the disease. The statistics make bowel cancer the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia and put the national rate among the highest in the world.

Bowel Cancer Australia is the leading charity dedicated to the prevention, early diagnosis, research, treatment and care for all those affected by the disease. The team of passionate staff and volunteers behind it, work hard to make a positive impact in our lives and our health, and do so by entirely relying on donations and requests to continue their life saving work.

Bowel cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. Small growths, called polyps, develop on the lining of the large bowel and if left untreated, some can become cancerous, growing large enough to narrow or block the bowel, and cause bleeding. Although not all polyps develop into tumours, they should always be removed to reduce the risk of them becoming malignant. Conveniently enough, the small growths can easily be operated on through a simple colonoscopy, without the need for surgery.

Although this type of cancer often has no symptoms, there are common signs that could represent a cause for concern. One of the most frequent symptoms is a sudden irregularity in bowel habits and appearance. Blood in the stool, frequent gas and abdominal pain, unexplained anaemia and vomiting, are also possible signs indicating the presence of malignant polyps in the bowel.

Because these symptoms could indicate a variety of conditions not necessarily related to bowel cancer, it’s wise to consider the pre-existing risk factors. The general population affected by this disease are over the age of 50 and have a history of polyps, bowel-related conditions and/or cancers. Both men and women are affected equally.

Prevention is key. If detected early, almost 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated and cured.

As such, a screening every 1 to 2 years is recommended for those at average risk, allowing for a simple colonoscopy to check for any anomaly present in the bowel. Simple lifestyle factors can also help reduce the risk of developing the disease, including regular activity, a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fibre, a healthy body weight, moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking. After all, a healthy lifestyle is the best prevention for a lot of health-related issues.

Because only 40% of treatable cases are detected on time, it’s imperative to spread awareness about the disease and promote prevention methods. Every year in June, Bowel Cancer Australia runs a month of awareness. They use this opportunity to increase public consciousness about this type of cancer and its impact on people’s lives, while also spreading their positive vision for our future — one where no Australian dies from bowel cancer.

If you’d like to support Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, register on their website to get further information closer to the date, or make a donation that will serve to fund preventative research and work to save lives.