Bowel Cancer – Preventable, Treatable and Beatable! – Home Support Services

Bowel Cancer – Preventable, Treatable and Beatable!

Our HSS Stomal Therapy Nurse explained the recovery rates for in-home care paid testament to the ‘treatable and beatable’ nature of the disease given high quality care and the necessary personal support.

“Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in Australia,” she pointed out.

“Lives are saved everyday through early detection as bowel cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer if found early.

“Prevention is always better than a cure. We are now aware of many risk factors and protective factors in relation to bowel cancer.

“While you can’t guarantee you won’t get bowel cancer, there is strong evidence to support that diet and lifestyle choices as well as screening and surveillance can influence your bowel cancer risk and outcomes.”

Six things you can do today to improve your risk of bowel cancer

Diet and lifestyle choices as well as screening and surveillance can influence your bowel cancer risk. These are things you can change and are therefore referred to as modifiable.

  1. Move more – Higher levels of physical activity protect against colon (not rectal) cancer.
  2. Eat more – Foods containing dietary fibre protect against bowel cancer. It is also believed that consuming garlic, milk, and calcium, provides protective factors.
  3. Reduce certain meats and alcohol – The consumption of red meat and processed meat increases bowel cancer risk as does drinking alcohol.
  4. Lower body fat – Body fatness and abdominal fatness increase bowel cancer risk.
  5. Don’t Smoke Smoking increases the risk of cancer including bowel cancer.
  6. Screen regularly – Participating in bowel cancer screening reduces the risk of dying from bowel cancer.

Know your bowel cancer risk factors…

Age and health history can affect the risk of developing bowel cancer. The major bowel cancer risk factors, for both men and women include:

  • Age – risk rises sharply and progressively from the age of 50.
  • A family history of bowel cancer.
  • A personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium, or breast.
  • A history of polyps in the colon.
  • A history of ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the lining of the large intestine) or Crohn’s disease.
  • Hereditary conditions, such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colon Cancer (HNPCC; Lynch Syndrome).
  • There is emerging evidence regarding type 2 diabetes (usually non-insulin dependent) as a potential risk factor for bowel cancer, however further research is required.

Be aware of the symptoms to watch out for…

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer or colon cancer, is cancer in any part of the colon or rectum. Common symptoms of bowel cancer can include:

  • A recent, persistent change in bowel habit.
  • A change in appearance of bowel movements.
  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding.
  • Frequent gas pain, cramps.
  • A feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely.
  • Unexplained anaemia.
  • Rectal/anal pain or a lump in the rectum/anus.
  • Abdominal pain or swelling.

It’s important to note that not everyone experiences symptoms, particularly in the early stages of bowel cancer. The above symptoms may be suggestive of bowel cancer, but they can also be due to other medical conditions, some foods or medicines.

Get diagnosed early!

Our HSS Stomal Therapy Nurse recommends seeking medical help as soon as practical if you have experienced symptoms.

“Don’t delay in talking to your GP if you are experiencing any of the described symptoms for two weeks or more,” she explained.

“When diagnosed early, 90 percent of cases can be successfully treated.

“Whilst bowel cancer is more common in people aged 50 and over, bowel cancer increasingly affects all age groups.

“If you are experiencing symptoms, do not accept ‘you’re too young to have bowel cancer’ as an explanation – ask your doctor to be referred for further investigations.”

HSS has been providing community health care to patients in the comfort and security of their own home for more than 27 years.

For more information on bowel cancer in Australia (including prevention, risk factors, signs or symptoms) see the comprehensive Bowel Cancer Australia website.