Did you know that Australia has one of the worlds highest bowel cancer rates? 1 in 13 of us will be diagnosed over our lifetimes. With 103 deaths per week it is also our second deadliest after Lung Cancer.
The good news is that early detection can prove life-saving. There is about a 90% success rate if treatment can commence early enough. The trouble with early detection is that many early stage cases do not present with any symptoms, or with symptoms so mild they are often ignored or attributed to other conditions such as food intolerance or haemorrhoids.
This is where screening comes in. In 2010 Bowel Screen Australia was launched and you can now take a simple test at home which then gets sent off for analysis and feedback to your GP. (You can find out more about screening and order your own home test kit at https://www.bowelcanceraustralia.org/screening or chat to your pharmacist or GP). What is the bowel and bowel cancer?
Another name for bowel cancer is colorectal cancer, which names the 2 parts that make up the large bowel - the colon and the rectum. The rectum along with the anal canal make up the last 15cm of your digestive system. Waste material (faeces) is stored in the rectum until you are ready to pass it from the body. The colon is much, much longer (about 1.8 metres if you straightened it all out!) and it's main role is water absorption. Bowel cancer often develops from polyps (or growths) that from on the inner walls of the bowel lining. There are different types of polyps, many of them are benign (not cancerous) but certain types called adenomatous polyps are known as pre-cancerous meaning they can develop into a malignant tumour. Prevention is better than cure
Bowel Cancer risk factors include both non-modifiable (can't be changed - such as family history and hereditary conditions) and modifiable (can be changed).
Risks that can be reduced through diet and lifestyle include:
Red meat and processed meat intake
Research has found that quitting smoking, reducing the amount of alcohol and red/processed meats and increasing fibre intake helps to reduce the incidence of bowel cancer.
Exercise is important