Bowel cancer treatable and beatable
Published at: 07 Jun 2019
This month marks Bowel Cancer Australia’s initiative Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. June is a time to raise awareness of one of Australia's deadliest cancers and raise funds for the community-funded charity dedicated to prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and the best care for everyone affected by bowel cancer. A highlight of the month is Red Apple Day on Wednesday, une 19 when Australians are encouraged to support the work of Bowel Cancer Australia through the purchase of a Bowel Cancer Awareness Ribbon and apple-themed fundraising activities. Bowel Cancer Australia was formed in 2000 by a small team of specialists who were focused on a better health future not only for the patients they treated but for all Australians.
Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, can affect any part of the large bowel (colon) or rectum; it may also be referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where the cancer is located.
Goulburn Valley Health oncologist Dr Javier Torres said they saw many presentations of patients with bowel cancer at the Peter Copulos Cancer and Wellness Centre.
“After breast and prostate cancer, bowel cancer is the most common,” he said.
Although there is a misconception that it is an older man’s disease, bowel cancer affects men and women, young and old.
According to Bowel Cancer Australia, Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world; 1 in 13 Australians will develop the disease in their lifetime.
Dr Torres said despite the rates, there was a high chance of curing bowel cancer if it was detected early.
“We encourage people aged 50 to 74 to do the (National Bowel Cancer Screening Kit),” he said.
“There is evidence that shows it improves survival rates if bowel cancer is detected early.”
He encouraged people to visit their GP if they experienced any of the signs or symptoms of bowel cancer.
“Because now we know more young people are getting the cancer,” he said.
According to Bowel Cancer Australia, the risk of developing bowel cancer rises sharply and progressively from age 50, but the number of Australians under the age of 50 diagnosed with bowel cancer has been increasingly steadily.
That's why it's important to know the symptoms of bowel cancer and have them investigated if they persist for more than two weeks.
Know your body
GV Health bowel cancer support nurse Katie Emanuelli said the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer should not be ignored if they persisted for more than two weeks.
She said minor changes in bowel movements, with or without rectal bleeding, were often seen by people but were often ignored or attributed to haemorrhoids.
Ms Emanuelli encouraged people to keep an eye out for blood in the stool or rectal bleeding; a recent or persistent change in bowel habit especially if severe which included diarrhoea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying; a change in the shape or appearance of bowel movements; abdominal pain or swelling; pain or a lump in the anus or rectum; and/or unexplained anaemia.
According to Bowel Cancer Australia however, during the early stages of bowel cancer, patients may have no symptoms, which is why screening was so important.
Ms Emanuelli said there were also several things people could do to reduce their risk of developing bowel cancer.
She said there were a number of diet and lifestyle factors including quitting smoking, limiting or abstaining from alcohol consumption, and eating foods containing fibre.
Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of bowel cancer, according to Bowel Cancer Australia.
When it came to the treatment of bowel cancer, Ms Emanuelli said every patient was different.
Treatments can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of these methods.