Bowel cancer

Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. Around one in 23 Australians will develop bowel cancer at some point in their lives. There may be no symptoms or signs of having bowel cancer, highlighting the need for regular bowel (faecal occult blood test) screening, or for higher risk individuals, colonoscopy screening. If detected early, 9 in 10 cases of bowel cancer can be successfully treated.

Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • bleeding from the back passage and/or any sign of blood following any bowel motion
  • change in usual bowel habit (straining, constipation, diarrhoea)
  • abdominal pain or bloating
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • symptoms of anaemia  (unexplained tiredness, weakness or breathlessness).

Bowel cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. You can reduce your risk of developing the disease if you limit your alcohol consumption, quit smoking, maintain a healthy body weight and engage in 30 to 60 minutes of physical exercise per day.

Everyone is at risk of developing bowel cancer, however your risks increase if you are over the age of 50 and have a strong family history of bowel cancer.

If you’re aged 50 or over, you may have received a free test kit for bowel cancer in the mail. The program invites eligible 50 to 74 year olds by mail to complete a bowel cancer screening kit at home, and mail it for analysis. The information booklet that is provided with the bowel cancer screening kit can be accessed here. From 2019, screening will be offered every two years to all Australians within this age bracket.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and concerned about your health, visit your local GP.

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