Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in Queensland men and women.
Bowel cancer usually develops from polyps which are growths on the inner lining of the bowel wall. Polyps are common and most are benign, or non-cancerous. However, some polyps may enlarge and become malignant, or cancerous.
Bowel cancer in Queensland
Bowel cancer occurs in both women and men. Approximately one in 10 men and one in 14 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer before the age of 85.
- Over 2,000 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in Queensland each year
- Almost 1000 Queenslanders die from bowel cancer each year
What is your risk?
Both women and men are at risk of developing bowel cancer. It is more common in people aged 50 years and over and this risk increases with age. Risk factors include:
- Inherited genetic risk
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Obesity and smoking
You can reduce your bowel cancer risk by leading a healthy lifestyle. Quit smoking, talk to a GP about your cancer risk and cancer screening, eat a healthy balanced diet and take the time to be active every day.
Changes to look for
Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
- Change in bowel habit with diarrhoea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying
- Thin bowel movements
- Blood in the motion or abdominal bloating or cramping
More general symptoms are:
- Weight loss
- Unexplained anaemia.
Having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have bowel cancer. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions, but you should have them investigated by your doctor. Any person who experiences persistent changes to their bowel habits should speak to a GP.
Detecting bowel cancer early
If found early, bowel cancer is highly curable. Cancer Council Queensland recommends all Queenslanders aged 50 years or over are screened for bowel cancer with a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) every two years.
The Australian Government’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program currently offers a free FOBT kit and pathology to all Australians aged 50, 55, 60 and 65, sent by mail. Cancer Council urges all eligible Australians to participate. The program will be fully implemented by 2020, inviting all Australians aged 50 to 74 years to screen every two years with a home FOBT. For more information about the National Bowel Cancer Screening program, contact the Information Line on 1800 118 868 (9am – 5pm across Australia).
If you are not eligible for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, have symptoms, a family history or are concerned about bowel cancer, speak to a GP.
For more information contact Cancer Council Queensland on 13 11 20.